JAM puts smiles on kids

2016-07-21 06:00
 JAM volunteers at one of the centres that receives help from the organisation PHOTO: jam

JAM volunteers at one of the centres that receives help from the organisation PHOTO: jam

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On Mandela Day, Joint Aid Management(JAM) mobilised its formidable volunteer force to transform run-down children’s learning centres into bright and cheerful havens.

The wide-eyed, bubbling laughters, and shrieks of delight that sparkled from the children at the handover ceremonies drew emotional tears from the volunteers who made it all happen.

“We see a lot of that,” smiles JAM Managing Director, David Brown.

“Makeovers are an integral part of our on-going hunger relief programmes, and the handover ceremonies, when the children see their new school for the first time, are always particularly emotional.

We throw a party, the children laugh, the grown-ups cry. We’ve even seen big, burly men so deeply humbled and moved, they break down into sobs.”

Volunteers come from all over the world to help African-founded international humanitarian organisation JAM to achieve its vision of eradicating starvation in Africa.

In the three decades since its inception, JAM has dished up over 1.6 billion meals to children in need, and has completed more than 120 makeovers on early childhood development centres in multiple informal settlements in South Africa.

The food that JAM serves at schools every day is a delicious porridge scientifically formulated by JAM itself.

Served to children in bright red bowls, each meal contains 75% of a child’s daily requirements of macro and micro-nutrients.

The need for hunger relief in Africa is very real.

Just here in South Africa, UNICEF South Africa has found that malnutrition is a major underlying cause of death in 64% of the deaths of children under the age of 5 years.

And 1 in every 4 children under the age of 5 are physically or mentally stunted as a result of prolonged and insufficient nutrition.

“We’ve seen children who are old enough to enter primary school but aren’t able to recognise more than 3 letters of the alphabet.” Brown offered.

“Malnutrition and stunting, means that children cannot learn as they should, they cannot think as they should, they cannot even play as they should. You can even see the dullness in their eyes.”

Nutrition is a vital foundation of education. And while hunger alleviation comes first, Brown is quick to point out that we cannot feed hungry children forever.

“Real change is sustainable, so it is essential that we create a future where the people of Africa are able to feed themselves.”

It was Nelson Mandela who said: “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”. In order to break the cycle of poverty and to ensure that children have a solid foundation in life, they need a safe and stimulating learning environment.

This is where the school makeovers come in. Sometimes all they need is a lick of paint. Sometimes they’re no more than corrugated iron shacks; draughty, dingy, and dangerous.

Sometimes there is no running water. Sometimes there’s no electricity. With the help of its sponsors and volunteers, JAM changes all that.

This year, as part of Mandela Day activities and with the support of sponsors like Spur, Marsh, and Google, JAM’s volunteers have painted walls in a splash of vibrant colours, installed soft, beautiful artificial grass, given out toys, and thrown parties at several early childhood development centres around the country.

In the wake of yet another big-hearted Mandela Day, Brown confides that it still astounds him how people are so ready to help others.

“It’s such a gift to see how deeply a day like Mandela Day can transform people – those who receive the help, and those who reach out and give it. It truly shows people why every day should be like this.”

That’s why JAM has found a way to feed a child a day for just R1.

“With your support, with your daily pledge of just R30, we can make every day a Mandela Day.” concludes Brown.

“We can keep giving children the nutrition they need to be able to play and learn, to dream dreams and to have hope,” he concluded.

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