A Home for Lulama - Domestic Worker Housing Fund

Many low-income people have been on SA government’s housing waiting list for over two decades. While they continue to wait, they are living in squalid conditions. 

Some employers have the willingness and financial resources to contribute funds toward the construction of decent housing for their employees. Through Habitat SA’s (HFHSA) Employer-supported Housing Project, where land is owned, we aim to provide these employers with the skills required to achieve this. HFHSA has started a fund to assist the delivery of these homes where resources may fall short.

There are many successful individuals who owe their success to a domestic worker who raised them as her own.  

In 2017, Stats SA reported that there were more than one million domestic workers in South Africa. If every one of these million domestic workers’ employers supported them in owning and/or building them a home, more than one million South African families would have a safe place to sleep, play and dream in 2021. HFHSA challenges all domestic worker employers to engage in a discussion around shelter with their employees. Do you know where your domestic worker lives? What are the daily shelter-related challenges that they face? 

There is something that you can do. Please donate today.


In November 2019, Habitat for Humanity SA received a phone call from Dana Smirin with a request for assistance to collaborate with her and her business partner at Path to Health, Dr Raoul Goldberg to realise a long-held dream of building their employee, Lulama and her family, a home in Delft, Cape Town.

Ms Lulama Gomana
, 54, is a mother who has raised Phozisa and Lunga in hardship as a single parent. The family of three, and Lulama’s two grandchildren and late brothers two children, all live with her on her site in Delft. Lulama was relocated to the serviced plot from Nyanga East in 1998. The shack that they have lived in for 21 years has three rooms and due to space restrictions, the children sleep in the kitchen. The structure leaks when it rains and takes in sand when the Cape winds blow. In winter, the home is cold due to a lack of insulation.

“Living in a shack is not safe at all ‘cause it’s very dangerous…so scary all the time with shooting [and] so much thugs around and my dream is in the years to come to have [a] nice brick house, and also helping other people in the community. There are sometimes there taxi shootings. When you don’t sleep at all during the night’ cause [you are] too scared of bullets coming through the shack. But by the grace of the Lord ‘til now nothing that bad had happened. That is why I need a better place to stay with my children.” Lulama Gomana

Lulama Gomana joined Dr Goldberg at his practice in 1995 in her position as cleaner and cook. Over the years, she proved herself to be “the heart of the clinic” as she has been upskilled through training courses and gained institutional knowledge alongside Dr Goldberg’s care. Today, she manages the dispensary and “is the only one who can read the doctor’s writing”. The team have formed a very close friendship over the years of mutual respect and admiration. “This practice isn’t a business. This is a heart. Lulama holds space here.”

While at work in 2016, Lulama received a call from her daughter with images of their shack that had “fallen” in extreme winds. Neighbours assisted in returning the structure to the site, but holes were hammered into the walls and these damages have left the home vulnerable to rain. The Path to Health team was struck by the challenging reality that these images portrayed and further moved by the realisation of where Lulama rested her head each night. Their two worlds in complete contrast with one another.

“How can I rest peacefully in my home when I know that others are sleeping in a wet bed? There is no holier than thou. We are all humans,” Dr Goldberg comments.

Willing to put his money where his heart is, Dr Goldberg started investigating his options as to how to offer Lulama a hand up and out of her shelter poverty. He offered her a portion of his retirement savings towards the building of a house. Lulama fortunately owns the serviced site that her family lives on, so it is just the structure that needs to be funded and built. A patient and mutual friend gifted his time in the design and approval of house plans and building contractors were approached. For two and a half years, however, the project hit constant obstacles as builders disappeared and quotes beyond their means were received.

In a final attempt and at a point where they had nearly lost hope, Dana contacted HFHSA to see if they could benefit from the Domestic Worker Employer-supported Housing Project that we have recently developed. Our Programme and Advocacy department reviewed the viability of the project and returned her email with a positive response.

“Lulama just went home and said ‘the angels are shining on us’. She is beside herself with joy; she lights up like a beam when I speak of it. She said her and the kids were praying all weekend this comes true; so are we. We can’t get her to qualify for a loan as it would not allow her to afford to live and support her extended ‘family’. We want her to have something supportive and safe, we wish for solidity for our trusted Lu.” Dana Smirin

During the week of 25 January, Global Village volunteers will join hands with Lulama, US Global Village volunteers, HFHSA, Dr Goldberg and Dana as her (Lulama's) life-long dream of owning a brick and mortar home is realised. Lulama has been given the week off work to assist with the build and she is excited to host the team.

“Lu and I have been sitting here crying and are super emotional. Doctor is in with patients but this is AMAZING and she is in shock and gratitude and is so happy to have the dates to organize.” Dana Smirin

HFHSA met with the team in December and discussed the progress of the project with them. In closing, Dana leaned toward Lulama and whispered,  “Tell your soul how deserving you are of shelter, of running water. This is about honouring you. This is love, Lu. You’ve always deserved this love.”

Dr Goldberg urges South Africans to “Go out and witness the reality that your employees are living…[and] share what you have. Keep just enough to do what you want to do.”"

If you would like to find out how HFHSA’s Domestic Worker Employer-supported Housing Project could facilitate a house build for your employee, please contact us: build@habitat.org.za

human services, southafrica, home, safety, security, build, resilience, habitatforhumanity, domesticworker, ahomeforlulama