As Omi Nair is laid to rest, the community remembers her for her uplifting projects

As Omi Nair is laid to rest, the community remembers her for her uplifting projects

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Durban: Chatsworth community activist, Omitha Nair, who was instrumental in stopping the land invasion in Crossmoor, will be cremated today.

Nair, 63, a grandmother of two, who lived in Crossmoor, died on Monday morning.

She was admitted to a hospital in Durban, with Covid-19. Her fight ended after 41 days.

Nair’s daughter Derisha Newton said the family are heartbroken at her passing.

“My brother and I have both lost our best friend, and the most beautiful mother,” said Newton.

Vee Gani, a friend, said she was more of a sister to him.

“We have been working together since the mid-1990s. That’s more than 25 years together. Omi has always been passionate about education and, especially, children. In fact, when I was just starting out, she mentored me.

“She always wanted to uplift and enhance the education system. She took on every issue head-on and often called me for advice when she had a problem at any of her schools. Omi was the secretary at the KZN Parents’ Association and whenever we would sit down with the MEC for Education, she never minced her words. She said things as they were, in order to see change and to make the authorities aware of how dire the situation was,” said Gani.

He said since Nair was admitted to the hospital, he used to speak to her and encouraged her to keep fighting.

“She was positive. She was also determined to recover and leave the hospital but unfortunately, in the end, it seemed God knew his plans,” said Gani.

Gani said Nair never did what she did for fame.

“Rather, she did it for her love for the community and community upliftment. She never looked for fame, she gained it. People learned about her, her hard work and her dedication, and they respected her.”

Zain Cassim, the chairperson of the Crossmoor Community Police Forum, said: “She has been instrumental in fighting off land invaders and crime in our area. In 2017, when we had people trying to illegally occupy land, Aunty Omi refused to give up the land. She rallied the community and encouraged us to keep fighting.

“She has been passionate about community work since then. If ever there was something going on, she was ready to hold a meeting and to get the politicians to give the community answers.”

Simmi Maharaj, a resident and activist from Chatsworth, who frequently partnered with Nair in community projects, said Nair was always at the forefront of trying to help people.

“During the lockdown, she said we would help families as they were finding it difficult financially. We started off by contacting people for hampers. We initially wanted to give out 120 hampers, but we knew that number was too little. Omi said let’s make it bigger and we settled on 400 hampers. She saw to it that we had products for 400 hampers and we distributed it.

“Even when Chatsworth was facing its water crisis, Omi contacted people for help and had water delivered to the affected communities. She was a kind-hearted person and a motherly figure in the community. She will be missed,” said Maharaj.

In 2018, Nair told the POST that she grew up in Bayview, Chatsworth, and that her neighbour was human rights and environmental activist Kumi Naidoo.

“I would see him hiding from authorities and he would also tell us stories about the work he would do, and his actions inspired me to be a better person and to help others.”

Nair, a spoon collector, has been an activist for 33 years.

She also tried to teach people to eat healthily. Nair created a Facebook page, Omi’s Healthy Eating, the LCHF way (Low Carb Healthy Fats), in 2016. She focused on reversing lifestyle diseases.

Nair has won many accolades and received several recognitions. She was admitted to the President’s Club of the Junior Chamber of South Africa. She was also a finalist in the Women in Action, Woman of the Year, in 2003.

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