Glenhazel angels give injured, abandoned teen wings
Sandringham High School matric student Matjantje Ntwampe had a life marred by hardship that was exacerbated by a brutal attack in the Glenhazel area two weeks ago. But, just when Ntwampe (known as MJ) thought life couldn’t get any worse, a Johannesburg family stepped in to rescue her, turning her life around.
On Tuesday, 22 August, MJ, who was in the middle of writing her preliminary examinations, was viciously attacked by a stranger in Swemmer Road, Sunningdale, while walking home from school with a school friend.
According to her, the stranger tried to strike up a conversation with them and when they ignored his advances, he became angry and threw bricks at them, one of which hit MJ, 19, on her right elbow and broke it.
A nearby security guard, hearing her cries of distress, pressed a panic button that alerted residents in the area.
Nadine Surmany and her son, Adam, 28, rushed to see what was happening.
“She was writhing in agony and crying,” said Adam, who immediately sprang into action to try help her.
So began the start of a new beginning for MJ and a “transformative experience” for the Surmany family, who say that since that serendipitous encounter, MJ has crept into their hearts.
“She had nowhere to turn. It was heartbreaking. She needed someone, and we happened to be there,” said Nadine.
Without hesitation, Adam transported MJ to Edenvale Hospital, where they waited patiently until she was seen by a doctor, which took several hours, requiring Nadine to take over from him later that day. Following this, they accompanied her to the Sandringham Police Station to ensure the incident was reported.
“It was about 21:00 when we finally finished, and all she wanted was to go home. So, my husband and I drove her to Alexandra and dropped her at home, a single room near the Alex Mall,” said Nadine.
Since then, the family has shown her unwavering support and compassion, arranging transport to and from school each day and organising a scribe to help her complete her examinations. Adam accompanied her to see an orthopaedic surgeon at Sunninghill Hospital, who together with an anaesthetist has kindly offered to operate for free when she has finished exams. There will still be further medical and hospital bills.
Three days after the incident, Adam posted a moving Facebook message, which has spread far and wide, appealing for help.
MJ was a young girl living on her own, fending for herself after her mother passed away, he said, describing her situation as “heartbreaking”.
“It’s a situation that calls for us to step up and make a difference wherever we can,” he wrote.
“Her journey hasn’t been an easy one. She has no one. No one to call. No one to check up on her. No one to go home to. No one to talk to. No one to seek advice from.”
He was moved by her positive attitude in spite of her painful injury.
Appealing for help in any form, Adam said that MJ was appreciative of everything they were doing for her.
“She hasn’t allowed her circumstances to tarnish her outlook on life,” he said. “Besides all the loss and hardship she faces on a daily basis, she wakes up every morning, walks an hour and a half to and from school, completes her studies, and then repeats the process. She’s on a food programme at the school, giving her one meal as it’s extremely tough for her to eat at home. I believe that together, we can turn this tale of adversity and struggle into a story of hope!”
Since posting this message, there has been a huge outpouring of help in the form of generous monetary donations and items such as shoes, clothes, and toiletries.
“There have been offers of help from social workers and physiotherapists. People have been incredible,” said Nadine.
“Before this incident, MJ had only one pair of shoes – her school shoes – which she wore all the time,” said Adam.
Now, she has new shoes and has been able to fill her small fridge at home, “which was mostly empty”, with food.
“When she was given a pair of jeans, her eyes welled up and she said she had never owned a pair,” said Adam.
Along with generous help from the community, the Surmanys have gone above and beyond to assist her.
“My life has been turned around. It’s a miracle,” said MJ, “I’m so overwhelmed by all the love and help. Only two weeks ago, I was just a girl living on my own in a room with no idea where my next meal was coming from, apart from the one at school. All this changed following a horrible thing that happened to me, which strangely turned into something magical,” she told the SA Jewish Report.
The Surmany family and the continued kindness and humanitarianism from others has marked the beginning of a profound transformation in MJ’s life, filling her with renewed hope and optimism for the future.
“I keep pinching myself,” she said. “On the day of the incident, I took a different route home from school so that I could go to a nearby park where there was Wi-Fi because I needed to use the internet for schoolwork. If I hadn’t done this, I would never have met these amazing people and experienced kindness that I never knew was possible,” she said.
“I can’t complain about the pain in my arm because I have never felt such joy. My mom passed away when I was 12, and I think she was the one who brought them to me.”
She’s hoping to pay it forward one day by completing her matric and furthering her studies to enable her to help children like her fulfil their dreams.
MJ’s teachers have expressed gratitude to the Surmanys.
“One teacher, who was aware of MJ’s home situation, hugged me when I fetched MJ from school, saying we were like angels,” said Nadine.
“This experience has taught me never to take what I have for granted and to be grateful for everything,” said Adam. “It has made me realise that my own problems, which may seem significant to me, are extremely minor compared to the hardships and life challenges faced by others like MJ.”