PASSOP Appoints New Ambassador: Cynthia Sonxi
This cannot be said for Cynthia Sonxi. When she wakes up, her first thought concerns others, what they need and how she can help them. Every day, she goes around her community in Khayelitsha, helping the old, the sick and the crippled without thinking twice. When the local soup kitchen she helped at was demolished, she opened her own home to house the new soup kitchen.
We first encountered Cynthia several weeks ago when we learned of her fostering a down-and-out Ugandan man, Sseskamatte, who she found aimlessly wandering on the side of the road. We helped repatriate Sseskamatte to his family in Uganda since then (for the story in last month’s newsletter, click here). We now found out that Sseskamatte was just one of several desperate people that Cynthia has taken into her home. The story below is about Peter, a former soldier for the apartheid regime who found himself languishing without money or support, homeless in Khayelitsha, until Cynthia took him in two months ago. She fed and clothed him and gave him a new hope for life.
Cynthia continually offers her home to those who have none and expects nothing in return, although she is unemployed herself. The term selfless does not do justice to the limitless charity provided by Cynthia and her actions. On Monday September 12th, PASSOP recognized Cynthia’s noble actions and humanitarian work by making her a PASSOP Ambassador. Her unwavering commitment to charity and helping the less fortunate, regardless of race or nationality, should be held high as an example of what modern South Africa should aim towards.
Cynthia Sonxi: Helping others every day
We recently wrote a story in our newsletter about Cynthia Sonxi, the selfless woman who helped Ssekamatte Charles, a lost Ugandan immigrant. As incredible as the story was, it turns out to be nothing out of the ordinary for Cynthia, as she has assisted yet another man in dire need. This time, she introduced us to Peter, a white former soldier for the apartheid regime who recently found himself in Cape Town devoid of money, support, or any hope of an improved life. That was until he was introduced to Cynthia who accepted him, welcomed him into her home, and provided him with much needed food and shelter.
Cynthia herself hails from Khamastone in Wittlesea, originally, but made her way to Cape Town in 1984. In 1986, she settled in Khayelitsha and quickly found work as a nursing assistant, where she gained crucial knowledge that would affect her work later in life. A few years later, she became a caregiver for a child in Constantia. Later, she learned that she developed diabetes that left her unable to work. Confined to her home, she became involved with the Joshua Generation Church based in Khayelitsha that focuses primarily on charitable work in the community. The group helps those who are sick or in need of assistance, washing them, cleaning them, and tidying their homes with the assistance of the Church pastor.
Cynthia’s also worked with the church through an organization called Home of Hope. The founder approached many women in Khayelitsha, asking them to provide assistance to those who are affected by HIV/AIDS and have no one to care for them. Immediately, Cynthia knew that she could apply those valuable skills she learned working as a nursing assistant. In addition, the group looks after the elderly, orphaned and mentally retarded who have no one to care for them.
But why would Cynthia give so much of herself? She attributes her willingness to help others so readily to her upbringing, especially the adults in her childhood who took orphans into their homes without question. Cynthia was raised with other children, who she thought were family, but later realized weren’t blood related. Through this, she was ingrained with the idea that we are all part of a human family and we must be willing to make sacrifices all look after one another.
While we were impressed by her kind heart when she first helped Sesskamatte, her charity astounded us when she was just as generous in helping Peter, a white man whose life had recently taken a sharp turn for the worse. The lasting effects of serving in the military combined with losing his family through divorce had left Peter in a precarious position; he was in Cape Town with no money, no family, and no friends.
After divorcing his wife in Durban, Peter decided he should travel to Cape Town, a city that he had loved while growing up. In 1997, he moved in with his father in Woodstock and found a job in the hospitality industry. The fast-paced work environment got Peter got involved in an unhealthy, reckless lifestyle. This new lifestyle quickly became overwhelming, and he eventually moved to Pretoria where he was promised a job. The job ended up being a scam, resulting in him getting evicted from his home and back in Cape Town with a mere R50 in his pocket. He contacted an old acquaintance in Khayletisha who initially agreed to help him until he sorted his life out. Instead, this relationship crumbled, leaving Peter back on the streets.
At this point in Peter’s life, he was very sick, suffering from debilitating stomach ulcers. Eventually, he met a woman who relayed his story to her Ward Counsellor who in turn contacted Cynthia. Without hesitation, Cynthia welcomed him into her home, connected him with her church, and gave him a new outlook on life.
Since their first meeting a month and a half ago, Peter’s life has drastically improved thanks to the kindness of Cynthia. She has provided him with a positive approach to his future, motivating him to follow in her charitable footsteps. Observing Cynthia and Peter together, you can see the beautiful relationship between them. When we presented Cynthia with an award for her exemplary humanitarian work and Peter was asked to speak, tears came to his eyes as he expressed how fortunate he was to meet Cynthia and all the goodness she had introduced into his life. “We walk around in society today and people don’t want to get involved in other people’s hardships. So when you do come across people like Cynthia, you regain hope in mankind.” She gave Peter the will to continue to live, something he had lost in his grueling journey to the heart of Khayletisha.
To Cynthia the colour of one’s skin is irrelevant. We live in the new South Africa that is need of continued progress towards the abolition of racial classifications and racial segregation. She herself is a black woman who lived during the apartheid era, but she doesn’t let oppressive histories dictate whom she helps.
Peter understands the problems that the apartheid era brought to Africans and is thankful that Cynthia doesn’t allow past wrongs to restrict her charity. In reality, South Africa is still crippled by inequality and the scars of apartheid and all too often we fail to see the ‘Rainbow Nation’ that role models like Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu inspire us to dream about. But it is people like Cynthia, whose quiet acts of kindness not only save lives of individuals, but also brings this dream of a Rainbow Nation in peace with itself a little bit closer to reality.