Rose Saville was awarded a Mother Teresa medal of honour for her community service to Lions Clubs, during a gala dinner at the Alphen Centre last week.
Lions Club of Bergvliet held the dinner to celebrate its 50th anniversary.
Teary-eyed, Ms Saville, 78, of Grassy Park, accepted her award, saying her service to the community was God working through her.
A nurse for 34 years, she told how her interest in the profession had been triggered when, as a 12-year-old, she had injured her leg and had been admitted to Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital, where she had been very impressed with how the nurses had cared for her.
“I said to myself I also want to be a nurse one day to pay them back. I’ve always loved helping people,” she said.
Ms Saville worked at day hospitals in Hanover Park, Wynberg and Retreat as well 2 Military Hospital in Wynberg.
When she retired in 1998, she applied to become a nurse in the UK, and in 2000 moved to a hospital in Hazel Grove, in Greater Manchester.
“I was invited to be a part of the Lions Club when I was working in Hazel Grove, because you know with the black and white story happening in this country, as a coloured woman, I didn’t really know about it. My journey in community service began there, and I haven’t stopped since,” she said.
Ms Saville said the club, of which she was eventually elected president, had raised money for the elderly who were living alone, ran errands for them and gave them lifts to church.
When she returned to South Africa in 2009, she joined the Lions Club of Bergvliet, where, among other things, she co-founded an HIV support group in Grassy Park and Lavender Hill in 2010, organised Christmas parties for various retirement villages in Retreat and Lavender Hill and volunteered at creches in Retreat, Hanover Park and Lavender Hill.
“I don’t work for money. My salary is life. My bonus is daily good health,” she said.
Ms Saville also received the Melvin Jones Fellowship Award, which is the highest award a Lions Club member can get for their humanitarian work.
Other recipients that evening were Angela Niehaus, former Lions of Bergvliet Club president and Terrence Klaasen, who works with the Boys to Men Programme, mentoring boys in gang-ridden communities.