Cape Town teen skips matric dance to help feed 150 people and celebrate her hero

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Instead of going to her matric dance, Jade le Roux decided to throw a party for Charlene Petersen, who runs a soup kitchen in Valhalla Park on the Cape Flats. (PHOTO: Supplied)
Instead of going to her matric dance, Jade le Roux decided to throw a party for Charlene Petersen, who runs a soup kitchen in Valhalla Park on the Cape Flats. (PHOTO: Supplied)

Most high-school learners wouldn't dream of missing their matric dance but 18-year-old Jade le Roux decided to skip hers and use all the money her parents would have spent on her ballgown, hair and makeup to honour someone in her neighbourhood who she has always admired.

So on the night that the Elsies River High School pupil should have been joining her friends at the ball, she was instead hosting a party at her home for Charlene Petersen (55), who runs a feeding scheme in Valhalla Park on the Cape Flats.

Jade lives on the same street as Charlene and got the idea after she lost a loved one. 

Dressed in her school uniform, Jade paid tribute t
Dressed in her school uniform, Jade paid tribute to Charlene, who has been helping people in need for 13 years. (PHOTO: Supplied)

“On 7 November I was just sitting on my bed thinking life is short," Jade tells us. "It is also the day I lost my grandfather (he died of natural causes). He taught us sharing is caring and a helping hand receives a blessing. I decided then to do something special."

She asked her parents, Dorothy (49) and Russell (54), if instead of paying for a fancy dress for the dance they could rather help her throw a party for Charlene where gifts would be handed out and people in the community could have a meal together. Her parents loved the idea and helped her plan the whole thing.

Friends of the family and neighbours were more than happy to chip in and the family was given groceries to add to what they were already planning to buy.

Jade wrote her final exam paper on 1 December and to celebrate the Le Rouxs opened their home to the community. Charlene was under the impression that she had been called to say a few words before Jade would go off to enjoy her high-school dance, however, she was surprised to discover it was all about her. 

“I just said to her, ‘Aunty Charlene, this is for you as a token of our appreciation for all that you do for us in the community and it does not go unnoticed'," Jade says. 

food, groceries
Members of the community donated food items as a gift to Charlene. (PHOTO: Supplied)

It was an emotional moment. In all her years of helping others in need, Charlene had never really received recognition nor had she asked for it. 

“It was very overwhelming. Even when I got home I was crying. I felt appreciated. Not that I want to be appreciated. I help others because I want to but it was nice to be appreciated,” Charlene says.

She was gifted with two boxes filled with groceries for her home. Russell, who grew up with Charlene, laid on dinner while everyone else helped to decorate. 

Charlene has been helping out in the community for years but after hard lockdown was announced last year, she got even more involved, starting Valhalla Park Community Feeding Angels to ensure a steady supply of meals. 

“There are times you give out food and you have nothing in your cupboard. But you give because you want to help," she says.

Charlene used to have a regular sewing job but gave it up to concentrate on her feeding project.

matric ball dance
Jade handed out food to 150 members of the community. (PHOTO: Supplied)

She appealed to her Facebook friends for contributions. Two non-government organisations donated a stove and continue to provide food for her feeding scheme, which feeds between 150 to 300 people per month, mostly children.

But after seeing all her hard work, her young neighbour decided she needed a break. In addition to pampering Charlene on the special night, Jade also ensured that 150 members of the community were fed so her guest of honour could take the evening off.

Dressed in her school uniform, she went around the neighbourhood dropping off food to those in need.

Although she was willing to forego her matric dance gown she did get to enjoy riding around in a fancy set of wheels – a horse-drawn carriage. She was hoping Charlene would join her but the community hero refused because she was scared of the horse.

Jade is just happy that she was able to show Charlene how loved and appreciated she is.

"Her eyes sparkled with tears. It was worth it," Jade says. 

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