Campaign spreads hope

Carla Martin, Michael Owen Dyson, Mikayle Booysen, Leanne Reid and Merle Africa at the handover of food parcels at Children’s House of Lavender Hill. PHOTO: Racine Edwardes

Most KFC customers have at least once wondered when asked if they want to Add Hope for R2, “Where does the R2 go?” The answer, at least in part, is Lavender Hill.

On Wednesday 10 March, KFC made a generous donation of 300 emergency food parcels to early childhood development centres (ECDCs) in Lavender Hill after the fast-food giant’s interest was sparked by an opinion piece posted in People’s Post.

Leanne Reid, the founder of Learning in Reach, a non-profit organisation (NPO) focused on early childhood development, penned the opinion piece “The plight of children on the flats”, highlighting the role and struggles of ECDCs, especially on the flats.

Andra Nel, corporate social investment and sponsorship officer at KFC, said, besides the mention of the fast food outlet in the piece, the company is aware of the need in such communities and aims to assist with their Add Hope campaign which relies on a R2 donation from customers.

“There is a situation around ‘Where does the R2 go?’, but the reality is that something as small as R2 compiled can make a huge difference. When we read the story, it brought the reality of so many people to light.”

She says the donation was “inspired by the willingness and dedication of individuals to make a difference on a daily basis”.

A number of ECDCs, who are supported by Learning in Reach, received these critical supplies from the fast-food company.

Many of the centres were hard hit by the Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown and struggled to feed the youths in their programmes after finances were tightened by parents.

Reid says the beneficiaries were those who are supported by the NPO.

“We work with all the ECD centres in this area – Seawind, Lavender Hill, Hillview and Montague Village – so we didn’t select any particular centres; they all got a fair distribution according to the size of their centres. And the food is either going to be used in the centres, for lunches as they all serve the children lunch and snacks, or they’re going to be used to make up food parcels for families that are really struggling and families with young children.”

She adds the need for these centres has increased dramatically over the past year.

“There’s a really big need. We’ve done some research and the numbers (of children receiving developmental care) have dropped. Something like 38% of children is in ECD centres, so there are a lot of children who don’t have access to centres – some for financial reasons and some because parents don’t understand the importance of development at this young age.

“So they rely on nannies or family members, but that’s not really giving the children the stimulation and cognitive development they need.” 

Nawaal Jacobs’s Small Beginners ECDC in Seawind was one of the centres that was severely affected by the lockdown. She says they struggled to keep going.

“Most of the parents have been keeping their children at home because they can’t pay the fees so children might come for two days or three days and the parents don’t even pay. Sometimes they’re going to look for work so they need someone to look after their children. The pandemic has caused parents to pay irregularly, children coming in and out; it’s been a difficult time, but we get through it,” she explains. She also battled with her space which also suffered a blow as a result of heavy rains last year.

The food donation, she says, comes at the perfect time. “Right now it’s the middle of the month – and especially during the middle of the month – it is a great, great help because I do serve them rice meals and I like to add nutrition and proteins so this is absolutely fantastic.”

Before the pandemic, Jacobs had about 20 children at her ECDC, but now only supports about six and does not receive a regular income to continue her work.

On the other end of the spectrum is Children’s House of Lavender Hill ECDC which relies on private funding. 

Mikayle Booysen says, thanks to the bursary scheme they are provided through Learning in Reach, their staff were able to receive salaries during lockdown. “But for the families and the children (in the community) it was hectic. They were struggling,” she says.

Reid adds: “So through lockdown, the teachers continued to connect and support the children and their families with work to do at home and readers and art packs, and we also delivered food parcels to the families. So the fact that we had a bursary in place meant that the children could continue accessing some learning and nutrition. It made a world of difference.” 

Another challenge, Reid explains, includes the new and continuous personal protective equipment expenses that those managing ECD centres are struggling to afford. “Less children and greater expenses is a real challenge as a business without the right government support.”

Fortunately, she adds, the government’s Early Childhood Development Employment Stimulus Relief Fund has given hope to those in the sector.

“We’ve spent the past three weeks getting all the centres registered for the ECD relief fund so we wait to see what the outcome of that is. But really, any support to make sure children have access to ECD and nutritious meals is very much appreciated at this point.”

The 300 emergency food parcels will feed 300 families of four for up to two weeks. This is over and above KFC’s support for more than 140 organisations and 2 000 feeding sites countrywide. In the Western Cape, some of the initiatives they support include Christel House, School of Hope in the city and Heartlands in Somerset West.

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