NEARLY every morning the angelic voice of 85-year-old Stella Wolhuter fills the halls of Beit-ul-Aman Home for the Aged.

“Oh what a beautiful morning, oh what a beautiful day, we are so blessed and contented, everything’s coming our way,” she sings.
Her uninhibited proclamation is contagious, and soon everyone within earshot hums the tune to themselves.

The 72 residents have been given a chance to live out their golden years in relative comfort.
Most of these frail residents are of the Islamic faith, so the home is run on Islamic principles, though it prides itself on being multi-cultural.

Beit-ul-Aman has been serving the community since 1979, and was initially created to provide specialised care for Muslims in particular, since there wasn’t a similar place for poorer seniors to go to.
Thirty years later and the home is still the only facility of its kind in the Western Cape.
As a result, the demand for residency is high, so the representatives of the home have to first do house visits to see if there isn’t any other alternative for the person seeking accommodation. “We don’t want to be a dumping ground,” says Naadir Agherdien, the current chairperson of the board.

“In our community there is a strong feeling that there shouldn’t be old age homes, since the family must take care of them, but these days it is difficult. Some even forget about our elders.”
Living life in the fast lane has its drawbacks – the most tragic of these is that many families can also not give the necessary care to its oldest members.
The options for those who need special care is very limited, especially if they are Muslim.

While Beit-ul-Aman receives a monthly grant from the Department of Social Development, it mostly relies on donations from the general public to help make ends meet and keep its doors open to those in need.
Their operational costs alone are more than R1 million rand a year, so these donations are essential for the running of the haven.

“The average shortfall for operational expenses comes to about R80 000 or R90 000 a month,” says Agherdien, before adding that they have to raise the money themselves by having at least one fundraising event a month.
The next fundraiser is a golf day in October, a popular event and a highlight on their calendar.

In 2009 the home very nearly had to close its doors, since the economic downturn saw donations drying up.
The Oasis Crescent Fund Trust intervened not a moment too soon, and stepped in to make a generous donation of R1 million.
This ensured that the home could build up a reserve of funds, but they are always in need of help from the community.
Agherdien says many old age homes have not been completely fire-compliant, so after one home was ravaged a few months ago, all were ordered to bring in sweeping changes.

They must now become compliant by the end of July or August, which means they must dip into that reserve fund.
It will set them back about R300 000.
This is just a once-off payment, but their biggest expense is for adult nappies.
All of this just serves as extra motivation for their valiant sponsors, who will undoubtedly come to the home’s rescue once again, says Agherdien.

Its dependence on the private sector is the lifeblood of the home, since companies have to date not followed the sterling example set by Oasis or the well-wishers within the community.
Funds are, of course, not the only thing the residents need.
Some of them have no family to speak of, and become desperately lonely.
Volunteers come in to keep them company, but there is always space for more.

On 1 July superintendent Zulphaa Hassen was appointed, but apart from her, the staff is almost solely made up of contracted volunteers.
“The need for volunteers will continue, but they can’t run the place. So there is a need for qualified personnel to address the residents’ needs. Now with Zulphaa, most of this will be managed and we will run the place better,” says Agherdien.
On Mandela Day (yesterday July 18), Islamic Relief sent 10 doctors to the home to hold a health programme, and do some much-needed exercises with the residents.

Agherdien says he cannot thank donors enough, but in the same breath he implores everyone who can lend a hand to step forward and make a difference.
Contact Beit-ul-Aman on (021) 761-1540.