With many South Africans living in poverty, local welfare organisations have urged businesses and individuals to extend a helping hand to the poor.
Stats SA’s Poverty Trends in South Africa report, released in August 2017, shows that a quarter of the population lived in extreme poverty in 2015.
More than half the population (56%) is considered to be living in poverty as defined by the upper-bound poverty line.
The report says poverty levels declined from 2006 to 2011 but increased in 2015.
Local woman Lindiwe “Mama Grace” Cebekhulu (67) is one of the few local individuals who have dedicated their lives to feeding the poor.
Cebekhulu, from Buffer, became a social media sensation last week after her daughter, Nomthandazo, posted a tweet about her welfare organisation that she has been running from her house for many years.
The post was retweeted over 7 000 times with many promises of sponsorship and donations towards her organisation.
Cebekhulu said there was a time in her life where she was in great need and that made me realise the pain that most South Africans go through every day.
She added: “I then committed myself to use the little I had to help others. I started in the early 90s in Imbali Unit 2 where most children knew that they could always have something to eat in my house.”
Today, with the help of her children and some of her neighbours, Cebekhulu runs a registered NPO, Grace Nations Foundation, which seeks to improve the lives of people in her community.
“As an organisation we seek to give a holistic approach to fighting poverty and giving hope to the less fortunate.
“This is being done through providing the most basic needs like a full meal a day to giving a chance for people to be independent through skills development training,” said Cebekhulu.
She said their database is approaching 300 people, with roughly 20% being children, 50% youth and 30% elderly, and continues to grow every day.
“Poverty is very real in our communities and it results from many different things like unemployment, lack of opportunities and sickness.
“We must see poverty as the end result of all of these issues, to fight against it then we need tackle these issues,” she said.
Cebekhulu said what keeps her going is knowing that she is fulfilling her God-given duty by taking care of the less fortunate, but she said more still needs to be done to fight against the scourge of poverty.
“We definitely need more organisations [like this] because the more we are, the more people we can reach. We also need assistance from the government so that we can be equipped to do more,” she added.
Jane van Heerden, director of Pietermaritzburg Benevolent Society, said the issue of poverty was of great concern in Pietermaritzburg as it affects many locals.
“The most affected people are the grandmothers who are forced to look after their multiple grandchildren whose parents have either died or are unemployed.
“The grants they receive are not enough to feed children throughout the month,” said Van Heerden.
She said their organisation, which also gives out food parcels and clothes to the poor, works with several other welfare organisations like the Pietermaritzburg Community Chest, who refer needy people to them.
“We help about 150 to 200 families in and around Pietermaritzburg a month, with each family having about eight to 10 members each.
“We are fully dependant on donations and sponsors and it sometimes is difficult to fundraise. Even the churches don’t help feed people anymore because they also don’t have the money to help.”
Van Heerden said what keeps her going and motivated to continue helping the poor, was the look in their eyes when they were given food.
“You can see in people’s eyes and hearts how grateful they are when you give them something.
“Just seeing that you’re making a small impact in their lives keeps you motivated and eager to ensure that they don’t starve to death.”
She urged more people to be open to helping the poor and those who are already doing something to not get despondent.