Being diagnosed with cancer was a shock but Jamiela Davids refuses to let it define her life – or put if off her mission to help the hungry.
The 43-year-old from Eerste River in Cape Town mobilised the community into donating what they could to buy food for those left with next to nothing by the lockdown. Cancer, she says, isn’t going to stop her from living her purpose and doing what she can for others.
In early February Jamiela went to her local hospital after becoming unsteady on her feet and experiencing excruciating pain. Doctors ran tests and discovered a growth on her pancreas which turned out to be pancreatic cancer – one of the most virulent forms of the disease.
Jamiela was shocked – but instead of focusing on her own problems she decided to devote her life to helping those stricken by the pandemic.
“I don't have time to sit back and think about my illness and whether I’m going to die,” she tells YOU. “Sometimes I’m in so much pain I can barely move but I get up, say my prayers with my husband, Gassan, and ask God to take me through the day.
“While I’m still on my feet and these two hands of mine can stir that big pot, I will do it.”
Since the beginning of the lockdown, the mother of seven has been serving hot meals to the needy, using her disability grant, her 70-year-old husband's pension money and her younger daughter’s salary to buy food.
"I’m doing this for my community,” she says. “These people are my friends, they are my neighbours, and there are so many children. That’s why I’m still going on. I want to keep my door open for the people because they are struggling. Everybody knows that they can ask me if they want something to eat.”
Jamiela moved to Eerste River from Delft after being on the housing list for 26 years and was appointed a community leader by the people in the area. When lockdown was enforced and many people’s sources of income dried up, they came to her for help. And she was happy to oblige.
“If I have the power to make the change in the community then I must,” she says. “I can see how people struggle here. I also help get books for children so they can develop their minds. I love doing this. I have a passion to work with people and do what I can for them.”
Jamiela also mobilised other community members to do what they could and several people donate R20 from their child grants towards her feeding scheme, which feeds nearly 400 people.
At the start of lockdown Jamiela served food once a day but realised it wasn’t enough. She now provides food three times a day “and I won’t stop until every belly is filled”, she says.
“I know the struggle is real now. A lot of people lost their jobs but if I can try and at least make a difference, I will – even if it means I have to go to bed on an empty stomach. At least I will know that others have eaten that day.”