By KUHLEKONKE DLADLA
They say good Samaritans do not exist, and if they do, they have a hidden agenda. But wait until you meet this remarkably compassionate woman with a heart of gold. Mary Birt can make anyone believe miracles exist. Her eyes have seen the horrors and beauty of this world. Known to many as Mama Mary, she is no stranger to the challenges and difficulties that face our home town.
“A town divided. That’s the only way we can describe Makhanda,” says Birt, who has lived here for many decades and noted that many people were suffering due to socio-economic decline with its plethora of job losses.
“You never know what anyone is going through, and we’re all afraid to ask. Because if we ask, we cannot deny what’s evidently clear: that many people in this town are suffering greatly under this newly built yet fragmented economy that has failed to meet the needs of its people,” explains Mama Mary. We might look away from people on the streets; we might smile and give them polite nods. Sometimes we might spare the time to provide them with money or food.
Mary Birt did something else. She established a non-profit organisation to help alleviate the hunger crisis in Makhanda by providing many families on the brink of starvation with food parcels. All it took was a conversation, and Food4Futures was born.
Now many families survive through her intervention and her determination to make someone’s life better. Because one day, she asked God to eradicate her boredom and give her something to do, Mama Mary has given many families in Makhanda the miracle of knowing where their next meal comes from. “We’re all just praying and waiting on a miracle. Sometimes all that takes is one person choosing to assist you in your time of need,” says Mama Mary. She gazes into the distance.