Lincoln Meade pensioner Juliana Pole is making a difference by clearing weeds and overgrown grass at cemeteries in Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu-Natal, the Maritzburg Sun reports.
While many would shy away from the responsibility, Pole has opted to take her garden tools and clear unkempt gravesites.
Her good deed was prompted by regular visits to a close friend’s son’s grave at the Ethembeni Memorial Park, in Lincoln Meade, and finding it in a horrendous state.
“My friend had relocated and asked me to look after the grave. While cleaning and taking care of that grave, I noticed all the other graves around me and the awful, untidy, unkempt state they were in, and thought to myself that I should just clean them all up,” said Pole, who has spent her lifetime assisting charities and nonprofit organisations.
“How are our loved ones supposed to rest in peace in such a state? It’s a mess,” she said.
Pole added although the municipality was trying to maintain the gravesites, they were falling short due to an evident lack of resources and backlog.
“The more the graveyard is not maintained, the more it is a safety and security hazard,” said Pole.
The Sun has previously reported on concerns over safety and security of the city’s cemetery following the case of widower Mxolisi Mvuyane, who discovered his wife’s tombstone had been removed.
Pole said she not only saw the venture as an opportunity to assist the community, but also as an opportunity to create employment opportunities for the city’s unemployed.
As word spread of her activity, Pole said more people began approaching her to assist in keeping the graves of their loved ones in tip-top shape.
Now, in exchange for a voluntary R100 a month (that is mainly used to cover fuel expenses), Pole has four other people assisting her to clean gravesites. These gravesite cleaners already have six graves each to take care of at the Mountain Rise Cemetery with requests growing daily.
“People do not have time. It is community service that can better the community as a whole. More people need to do things that involve the community,” she encouraged.
With a positive response from residents, Pole has also formed a Facebook page called Gravesite Cleaners to assist more people.
“I’d like to be able to assist other individuals interested in maintain gravesites in starting up their own initiative,” she said.
Msunduzi Municipality Mayor Themba Njilo commended Pole’s efforts while admitting the state of city cemeteries needed attention.
He said it was the municipality’s responsibility to keep certain landmarks clean, but also a joint effort between the city and residents.
“It is our city at the end of the day and we all have to play our part,” said Njilo.
Njilo further applauded the pensioner and offered assistance through the Themba Njilo Foundation, his personal foundation that supports local community upliftment.
“Residents who take such an initiative need to be given whatever assistance to further better our city,” he said.