The Forsaken and the Givers: Isuzu reaches out in the Eastern Cape


• Food parcels delivered to distressed communities in the Eastern Cape.

• Communities feel that government had forsaken them.

• Isuzu availed several of its vehicles in the fight against Covid-19.

It was heartbreaking to watch: Masked people standing in long queues, patiently waiting for their names to be called from a long list to receive one of the food parcels laid out in neat rows behind the Isuzu truck. 

Not being able to work under the Level 4 lockdown regulations, this community have not had food for days.

But even at the end of tolerance, they mustered their last vestiges of dignity to wait quietly, and hope.

Young children, milling around impatiently, yelled with excitement as they received their hampers before scurrying off home, with a string of others in tow.

Have you been involved with any relief programs during lockdown? Email us with your stories.

gift of the givers,isuzu

Image: Road Trip / Ryan Abbott

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'We are hungry!'

We were in the Camdeboo area of the Eastern Cape, delivering much-needed food parcels to the impoverished community in Aberdeen and surrounds - forsaken and forgotten by the State. "We have not received any food relief since the lockdown began. It seems they have just forgotten about us," said one of the residents, with a tinge of resentment.

Having received enough food for a family of four, including a full sack of maize donated by local company Afgri that will (hopefully) last for a month, the appreciation and gratefulness of the community members were tangible. "Thank you, Gift of the Givers, thank you," they sang.

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However, earlier that morning, in Adendorp, Graaff-Reinet, things were not so dignified and peaceful. Having delivered food parcels to military veterans, led by a former sergeant major and staff sergeant of the statutory forces (proudly in uniform), at a church hall, things nearly turned ugly.

Other residents arrived and demanded food. As there was not enough for them too, they had to be turned away, and this sparked outrage: "We are hungry," they shouted. "Help us!"

gift of the givers,isuzu,d-max

Image: Road Trip / Ryan Abbott

Eastern Cape relief

Our journey started the previous day when photographer Ryan and I left Cape Town to join the team from Gift of the Givers in Graaff-Reinet. Founded in 1992, the local disaster relief group has been hailed for its humanitarian work not only in South Africa but also in countries such as Palestine, Bosnia, Pakistan, Somalia, Haiti, Zimbabwe, and Malawi.

Their work in the most vulnerable, aid-distressed communities in the country continues unabatedly, and Isuzu South Africa has made its media and marketing fleets available to them during the lockdown period in support of their efforts and services countrywide.

The blue D-Max 300 LX 4×4, with 130kW and 380Nm underfoot, proved a pleasant companion for our trip on the N1 over Laingsburg and Beaufort-West before turning off onto the R61 towards Aberdeen. We arrived in Graaff-Reinet early evening where Corene Conradie, regional coordinator for Gift of the Givers, met us.

gift of the givers,isuzu,d-max

Image: Road Trip / Ryan Abbott

Facing the task

We stayed over at the recently revamped Victorian Square Guesthouse in Graaff-Reinet with seven tastefully decorated, well-appointed, self-catering rooms (no services due to lockdown). Early the next morning, we joined the rest of the team, including truck drivers Edwill Jantjies and Randall Goliath, at the Karoo Taxidermy warehouse to help load the food parcels.

Fully loaded, the seven-ton Isuzu NPR 300 truck, weighed down by its cargo, left for Adendorp and Aberdeen. Here our convoy, now consisting of the truck, two D-Max 300 bakkies, and a D-Max X-Rider, was joined by Gift of the Givers Western and Eastern Cape manager, Ali Sablay.

He told us that in Aberdeen alone, more than 80 families received food relief, and that we still needed to deliver to Nieu-Bethesda, 50km on the opposite side of Graaff-Reinet, after loading more parcels in town. Meanwhile, the weather was turning, and snow was expected in the Winterberg region.


Image: Road Trip / Ryan Abbott

Snow in Nieu-Bethesda

Averaging less than 80km/h on the undulating "Road to Mecca", the fully loaded truck only arrived in Nieu-Bethesda late afternoon. By then, the weather has closed in, and light snow began to fall as we unloaded the truck. Luckily, Rosalie, our host from The Stoep B&B in town, offered tasty butternut soup and homemade bread in front of a roaring fire.

With over a hundred food parcels offloaded, we had one more assignment to fulfill before returning to Graaff-Reinet: a visit to Auntie Evelyne's diner. Even though she could not serve any food, she greeted us warmly and regaled us with tales of her family.

She also told us that the lockdown had hit the small community, reliant on tourism and hospitality, hard. "It is difficult," she said while warming herself in front of an old Dover coal stove. "But we keep on believing, and pray things will get better soon."

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On our way back to town, a soft snow blanket started to settle over the icy Karoo veld, but hopefully, some of the forgotten forlorn families of the Eastern Cape could face the cold with full stomachs.

The next day we visited Bedford and Adelaide before bidding our Gift of the Givers hosts goodbye as they continued with their food relief efforts in the Eastern Cape. We can only hope these efforts can be sustained, as the need is great.

*Our thanks to Ali Sablay and Corene Conradie from Gift of the Givers for their kind hospitality during our visit to the Eastern Cape.

This article first appeared in the June/July 2020 edition of RoadTrip magazine. Signup here for free.

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