A Red Hill resident is determined to change her community for the better, one book and a plate of food at a time.Buyiswa Ponti (45), a mother of two who works at the Simon’s Town Museum as a cleaner, moved from Khayelitsha to Red Hill in 2000 to work. Being new to the area, she noticed that things were not as they had been in Khayelitsha.“When I was in Khayelitsha I used to go to the library and read. I also wrote my own books to keep me busy. But when I got to Red Hill I noticed there was no library and the children were struggling. That bothered me a lot because I also loved reading and I was wondering what the children are doing to get their homework done and to get books to read. That prompted me to do something.” Ponti says that although she is not highly educated, she had no doubt that a library was going to make a positive impact on the children in the area. “We went for a conference in Durban with other women. I told them that I recently moved to Red Hill and what bothers me is that we don’t have a library and I would like to start one. Everyone I spoke to thought it was a brilliant idea,” says Ponti.That marked the birth of the Red Hill Literacy Project in 2009. The library, equipped with computers and internet, services most of the children in the area. It operates from one of the rooms in Ponti’s house. With the library growing and more children coming, they are in the process of building a new library.“We have got help from a lot of people and we have been striving for donations. Children come here every day and they do homework, get books and do some research. I have always loved reading and seeing children being afforded such an opportunity warms my heart. For some to get to a library they had to go to Simon’s Town or Fish Hoek, but now they have a library close to them. We have internet and they can do their research so I’m happy with what the library has become. It gives so much hope to the children in the area,” she says.The library is mostly used after school from 15:30 to 18:00. Ponti says she noticed that as the children came to the library most of them were hungry. “When my children were eating you would see some of the children looking at them in a very pitiful way. It broke my heart and I had to knock on doors so that we could open a feeding scheme as well. People supported the idea and we opened the feeding scheme. We now feed everyday from the community hall,” she says.“Children can now come to the library with a full stomach and it is easy to do their work. We feed a special nutritious porridge that we order from Joburg. I’m truly grateful to everyone that has supported my vision. At least our children now have a place they can call theirs they don’t have to travel far,” she says.Ponti says she is proud of what she has built over the years. “I feel very happy. We started from nothing but look at what we have done. We are changing lives, and looking at everything just makes me smile.”They are also planning their Christmas party for Friday 7 December and they need help. This is something the Red Hill Literacy Project has been doing for the past four years and they hope that this year, they can put smiles on children’s faces again. V To find out more on the project or how you can help with their Christmas party, call Buyiswa Ponti on 079 900 9098.