Caring for the needy

2020-04-08 14:30

Just a short drive from Howick’s central business district is the Shiyabazali informal settlement, home to an estimated 6 000 people, many of them young children.

The Angels’ Care Centre, in Morley Road, has made feeding them a priority during the lockdown.

From Monday to Friday, come rain or shine, the staff set up a gazebo and their community caregivers, Nontobeko Mnguni and Samekeliswe Dlomo, ensure each child is registered.

They then line up, one metre apart, waiting to have their hands sanitised, before being given a food packet containing sandwiches, fruit and yoghurt.

This daily feeding scheme is supplemented by a twice weekly family food parcel project. The parcels contain mealie meal, porridge, baked beans, potatoes and other vegetables, maas, pilchards, rice or samp and chicken; as well as washing powder, bleach, toilet paper, body soap and an insulated Wonderbag which allows food, often cooked over an open fire, to be kept hot for hours at a time.

Angels’ Care chairperson Carolyn Hancock said when they first opened, they concentrated on feeding children.

Today the centre has a pre-school facility, offers counselling and care for traumatised children, and a bridging class, but the importance of providing a meal to needy youngsters remains a priority — especially now with schools being closed.

“For a lot of these children, getting a meal at school was often the only decent meal they got,” Hancock said.

“We currently feed between 200 and 250 children. Some need extra care. They are brought to the centre by our taxi driver, seven at a time.”

Staff also look after four disabled children every day, providing them with a cooked meal, a bath, time to learn and love.

The family food parcels are given to families in need, who have been identified by the community care-workers. Most are already known to Angels’ Care because the children come to the centre or attend Thembelihle Primary School in Howick.

“With their help we know how many people are in a family. They are given a ticket so that we know the right people are getting the food parcels,” Hancock said.

Being allowed to work during the lockdown has proved challenging for the Angels’ Care team, who had to prove to the authorities that what they were doing was essential for the well-being of very vulnerable, poverty-stricken children.

Many live in child-headed households, or have a grandparent caring for them. Others are undocumented migrants and have no access to grants.

The informal settlement has just three JoJo tanks providing water, no electricity or waste removal, and many of the adults who live there are unemployed or rely on piecemeal work to get by. With the lockdown that work has vanished.

“Shiyabazali is about as bad as poverty gets,” Hancock said. “Many of the people living there are already immune compromised.

“We believe that ... by building people up we have a better chance of helping them to fight the [Covid-19] virus.

“For most of these kids school is a happy place ... they know our staff, they know our volunteers and they know we will help them. A little bit of kindness can go a long way.”

Ensuring that Angels’ Care is able to continue to provide food are individual supporters who have been making online donations, as well as a host of Midlands companies.

Woolworths donates vegetables to the feeding scheme twice a week, the Southern Lodestar Foundation recently gave them 650 kg of porridge and Hanbury Chickens has said it will be donating 600 hard-boiled eggs every week.

Other supporters include Fairfield Dairy, Wonderbag, Farm2You, Pick n Pay Family, Howick Meat Centre and Greendale SuperSpar. If you want to get involved, e-mail, phone 033 330 6837 or see their website, or their Face­book page.

Read more on:    donations  |  pietermaritzburg

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