A serving of hope

2018-03-06 06:00
Selwyn Bailey, Moreen Wilds, Lenie Bailey (founder) and Kathleen Elias at Bailey's food kitchenPHOTO: TIYESE JERANJI

Selwyn Bailey, Moreen Wilds, Lenie Bailey (founder) and Kathleen Elias at Bailey's food kitchenPHOTO: TIYESE JERANJI

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A mother of three from Seawinds is not letting her blindness stop her from serving her community to the best of her ability.

Lenie Bailey (67) suffers from a condition called conjunctivitis (pink eye), which has left her blind. If left untreated, pink eye can lead to corneal ulcers and blindness.

She has suffered from the condition for about 23 years now, but that is not an issue for her as she lives life to the fullest.

For the past 13 years she had been serving meals twice a week to children in her community and those from surrounding areas.

Bailey says that despite the challenges, she is happy to serve. “About 10 years ago I had a dream of children walking in the streets shivering. It was a rainy day and I approached them and they told me they were feeling cold and hungry. It was so real and when I woke up I just knew I had to help feed my community,” she says.

With nothing else except her pots and the food that she had in her house, she started cooking for the vulnerable children in her community.

That was the birth of Bailey’s soup kitchen.

“We have a lot of vulnerable children in this community. There are a lot of challenges and parents try very hard, but most are drowning in substance abuse, making it difficult for them to really look after their children. We try our best to give them food or whatever we have in the house,” she says.

Every Monday and Wednesday, children from local schools and the surrounding areas gather at Bailey’s house waiting for a meal.

People’s Post visited the soup kitchen last Wednesday to witness the work being done there.

While waiting for others to arrive, the children who were already there were singing and praying before the food was served.

With no plates or spoons, volunteers handed out polystyrene meat trays to be used as plates while Bailey dished up the food from a 20F aluminium pot.

On that day, the meal was akhni with two slices of bread.

“I make the food myself. I wake up in the morning at around 06:00 and make the first pot. I go to a prayer for mothers as soon as the first pot is done. Thereafter I come and make another pot so that by the time the children are finished with school, everything is ready for them. I love cooking so I make the food myself,” she says.

At about 14:30 the learners started trickling in, some with their lunch boxes and some with margarine containers to collect the food. However, the majority had no containers and had to be served in the meat trays. 

“As you can see, the struggle is real here. We don’t even have plates, so we just have to do with meat trays. Our plea is for plates, spoons and cups. I also need big pots so that I can make even more food at once. We serve about 150 to 200 kids. The number increases when we have fruit and yoghurt. We really struggle but we make sure that we find something to feed the children­. If we don’t have anything to cook I just make them jam and bread. I can’t turn anyone away, it would really break my heart,” says Bailey.

Sitting around the yard on benches, the children could be seen digging into the meal with their hands. 

For them it’s about having something to eat and chatting. 

“It makes me happy knowing that I can do my bit to help in my community. My wish is to feed the children maybe three times a week, but I can’t do that because we don’t have the means. We are working from our own pockets and we really need help with food to cook,” says Bailey.
The soup kitchen has been registered as a non-profit organisation for five years now. Bailey’s son Selwyn is in charge of securing donations and funds to keep the kitchen running. 

“I tell you, it has been difficult. I have to beg and ask for help. We also make rotis that we sell so that we will be able to buy food to make for the children. This is my mother’s vision and I will do whatever it takes to keep it going. It makes her happy. I hope someone out there will help us and donate to us so that we keep feeding the children,” he says.

Bailey adds that they will also appreciate donations of clothing, school uniforms and shoes. “We want the best for our children. Some don’t even have school shoes. Others have torn uniforms. If we can get donations for that as well, it will really mean a lot,” she says.

To make a donation, call 078 952 9156 or 021 701 0481.

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