Wiz and Jen Khayat’s story with JCW began in the autumn of 2004, when they flew out from Toronto and Jen started volunteering at JCW’s new Masibambisane Centre in Eldorado Park.
“Masibambisane means ‘Let’s Work Together’. Jen got into social work because she earned a living doing something she would have happily done for free: help people. That was her mission in South Africa,” says her husband, Wiz.
The couple spent several months in South Africa and Jen tirelessly rallied for donations from friends and family in Canada. Jen wanted to put in a basketball court at Masi; so, they gathered supplies and built a court. She bought groceries for all the families and new clothes and toys for each child: skipping ropes for girls; and yo-yos for boys.
“All the kids were clothed in tattered hand-me-downs and broken shoes. Jen wanted each child to know the feeling of owning something new. The clothes were not elaborate, and the toys simple. But Jen was motivated by the emotions these things invoked,” says Wiz.
Jen volunteered at Masi on a daily basis. “Jen resolved playground conflicts, familial grudges and community gripes. She danced with kids, she hugged them, she bought them medicine. She mothered children orphaned by HIV/Aids and sistered their caregivers,” he says.
Jen was embraced by the community for her wholehearted efforts to improve their lives. And when she passed away in August 2019 from cancer; the JCW lost one of its best mothers.
“Jen dedicated her career to social work and made a great effort to inspire family and friends to make Masibambisane a happier place. She found a way to always “celebrate everything”, especially the small things, bringing joy to those around her,” says Wiz.
The couple’s family and friends are still working together to collect donations for Masibambisane – please click here to make a donation in Jen’s honour.