We’ve all heard the saying “We’re all in this together”, since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic. The world over, businesses, governments and even celebrities have tried to bring about a sense of unity in that, together, we can overcome the current crisis. But perhaps where this saying rings most true is in the communities where people have struggled the most.
One such example is the work done by the Khayelitsha Site B Community Action Network (CAN). In partnership with other community networks, they have been working tirelessly to support individual households and soup kitchens in the Khayelitsha area. Since the beginning of lockdown, they have been partnering with Constantia CAN. What has transpired has been amazing and for many people a life-saving initiative. Between April and June, over 340 000 meals were distributed to vulnerable families, and work like this is not easily achieved without intimate knowledge of the area, and identifying exactly who needs the help.
“As someone living in Khayelitsha, I saw the need for assistance during March. That is when I started to ask for help on behalf of people from Site B Khayelitsha, because of increasing social issues which affect our society as a whole. Soup kitchens and food parcel distribution was the plan to make sure that everyone benefits from the limited resources we get from people who have the heart to help,” comments Khanyisa Vedala, Khayelitsha Site B CAN admin.
“A large number of people are getting food each day, ready to eat or ready to cook which is something which has never happened before.This is especially helpful for children who do not have anything at home, or parents who cannot provide for their families.”
From the outside looking in, the numbers we see may appear as just numbers (340 000 meals since April, over 3 000 people being fed every day, etc.) and could separate us in a way from the real impact made by community-based organisations. There are thousands of people living in a vulnerable area like Khayelitsha who can now rest assured that they do not have to worry about where their next meal will come from, or if their family will go to bed hungry. Many middle-class city people are desensitised to the harsh realities of millions living in South Africa, but it’s important for us to not forget the privileges we live with.
“We are living and working in a disadvantaged community, where parents depend on social grants. Most parents are scholars themselves, so our soup kitchen helps those vulnerable children and their parents. It made a huge difference in our community, children now have hope for where they will get food. You see the appreciation in their eyes. Even their parents come to us directly to express their gratitude,” says Ndileka Sokweba, Soup Kitchen Operator at Eluthandweni Educare.
While these groups work tirelessly to bring about change, it is not something that happens overnight, or without the help of countless donations from both individuals and businesses. By reaching out to Khayelitsha Site B CAN, Constantia CAN was able to, and is continuing to, make a huge difference in the lives of many as we weather the Covid-19 storm. The 3.5 tonnes of groceries delivered to 18 soup kitchens in Khayelitsha each week begin with donations, and end with people on the ground in the community ensuring that each kitchen gets what they need.
“As Constantia CAN, our primary focus has been on addressing hunger, as the school closures had an immediate effect on kids who normally had at least one meal a day at school. In addition to the help of our soup kitchen partners on the ground, we have identified vulnerable families to whom we are doing monthly deliveries of food parcels to. The passion of our community has led to many other projects which have been run by subcommittees including sandwich-making, the making of meal kits, collection of clothing, books and toys, a community garden project, mask-making etc.,” says Elise Malherbe, Constantia CAN Committee Head.
One business that has come on board to help make these donations easier is Yebo Fresh, a local online retailer specialised in delivering bulk groceries and food packs to township communities. Through their scale effect, efficient operations and hyper-local knowledge of the area, they are able to deliver low-cost quality food parcels to private homes, schools, soup kitchens, children’s homes, or any other space where needed.
“We are so happy to be able to be a part of this amazing community initiative run by people on the ground. The collaboration between Constantia and Khayelitsha shows the life-saving impact of different parties pulling together, each bringing their unique strength and doing what they can to make a difference. ”, adds Jessica Boonstra, Founder of Yebo Fresh.
Sharing resources at a time like this is what will pull South Africans through in the end. And while things may look dim for the time being, it is refreshing to see thousands of people working towards a common goal of helping each other, truly proving that we are in this together.