For the love of children and community

2016-09-06 06:00
The 85-year-old James Poggenpoel sits with donations received towards a church soup kitchen he runs with the help of his wife.

The 85-year-old James Poggenpoel sits with donations received towards a church soup kitchen he runs with the help of his wife.

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“I may not be clever but I am hardworking.”

These are the words of 85-year-old James Poggenpoel – one of the seven finalists in the People’s Post SpecSavers Community Champions Elders Awards.

Poggenpoel is an ex-principal of Portia Primary in Hanover Park and has been retired for 20 years. However, his work in the community and love for children did not stop the day he left the gates of Portia Primary. 

“I started teaching at the age of 19 after completing my studies at Hewitt College in Roeland Street in Cape Town at the time. I started teaching at St Matthews in Claremont. I was there for 19 years,” he recalls. 

“Then the vicious Group Areas Act came along and that was just such a terrible time. Our schools were closed. So two of my friends and I came together and Portia Primary was established during 1969,” he fondly remembers. 

“When the first principal was appointed at the school I also told myself: ‘You stand a really good chance at principalship’, and I set my goal to become the principal. And something that I have instilled in my children and grandchildren is to always go for the top. Always give more than your best and do extra,” he says. 

Poggenpoel, who is a sportsman at heart and played soccer, cricket and table tennis, has been very active in his community with recycling drives. These help raise funds for two crèches – Rooikappie in Ottery and Liefdespoot in Philippi – which he adopted along with his church soup kitchen. 

“I hold children very near and dear to my heart and I believe in children having something to eat for the day. So I collect recyclable goods every Saturday and Sunday morning to help along the funds to keep the soup kitchen going – which feeds 80 children with bread, soup, breakfast, lunch and two snacks during the day,” he says.

“I collect recycling goods from Swingers Pub where they know me quite well and they hold onto the recycling goods for me when I go around there at 04:00 on a Sunday morning. I also collect from Club Royale in Lansdowne, as well as Grounds Pub. Many people also bring their donations or dirt to my house because they know about the initiative we have going. We also have two wonderful ladies, Verna Greef and Carol Paulsen, who donate to the cause as well and we are so grateful for all the support,” he says.

 About his nomination, Poggenpoel says he was “surprised”.

“My daughter very secretly asked me some things about my day to day schedule and what it is that I do. And I found it quite strange but then after she had already sent away the nomination she told me what she had done and I was quite surprised,” he says.

His daughter, Michelle Wannenberg, who nominated him says she had to sit her father down to find out what exactly it is that he does everyday “because one cannot keep up with him and all the things he does”. 

“So I sat him down and told him ‘Daddy, if anything happens to you I don’t even know what you do. Tell me what do you do?’ and then a whole long list came back,” she laughs. 

“Come rain or shine on Sundays he collects dirt at the Swingers Pub and then at 07:30 he lifts his passengers to church at St Aidans with the second lift round at 09:00. Between 10:00 and 10:30 he fetches more recycling goods. And at 18:00 he buys bread for the crèches which he then delivers on a Monday morning. On Tuesdays and Wednesdays he sorts out the recycling to get it ready for the scrapyard,” Wannenberg says. 

Poggenpoel along with his wife Esmé have crept deep into the hearts of their community by feeding hungry children from the Hanover Park and Ottery communities and arranging Easter and Christmas parties for the two crèches. 

- The winners will be announced at a special high-tea at Moyo Kirstenbosch on 1 October (International Older Persons Day). All seven finalists will be honoured at the event. Prizes include a two-night stay for two at the Garden Route Game Lodge including breakfast, dinner, game drives and transport to the lodge; a two-night stay for two including breakfast at the President Hotel in Bantry Bay; Spec Savers vouchers to the value of R2000; gift hampers by Johnson&Johnson, Montague Dried Fruit and Nuts, Boesmanland Biltong, Capitec, Foschini, South African Society of Hope and TygerValley Shopping Centre; meal vouchers for Ocean Basket Cavendish; City Sightseeing red bus vouchers, a photoshoot by NK Photography and tickets to the Cape Town Sevens in December. 

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