We Can Die Without Food
That’s a fact. We know it. They don’t, really. On this wall it’s a statement, a slogan, a cry for help, a prayer, but it’s also part of life. SINETEMBA means HOPE
"Safety and security don't just happen, they are the result of collective consensus and public investment. We owe our children, the most vulnerable citizens in our society, a life free of violence and fear." — Nelson Mandela, Former President of South Africa
In one of the poorest and most disadvantaged townships of our town, Zweletemba, there’re a few generous people trying to make a difference by giving tiny children a bowl of food and a safe haven after school. A collection of salvaged containers form a small “laager” in an unused section of the VUSISISWE SECONDARY SCHOOl's back yard. 80-130 children attend the Creche daily. (Classes run from GrdR to Grd 5.) Brightly painted by the children, two of these containers are used as after-care classrooms while a third one has been turned into a kitchen. Plans are underway to utilise two more containers for older children and a computer lab. In this neighbourhood the garden tap might be the only water source for many households.
Dedicated teachers and volunteers make and distribute helpings of delicious bean stew in brightly coloured plastic bowls. On an average day 210 children receive their only meal here. Many children voluntarily stay for the afternoon where three or four teachers supervise them. The littlies play and work at their tables in a calm, peaceful environment where they’re safe and loved. Meals are served from Mondays to Fridays.
I could hear happy laughter ringing from the classrooms and from the small quadrangle where bright children play on the swings and jungle gyms upon my arrival at the school. My camera was a delight and posing for a few pictures was a thrill. No choreography was needed, they knew how to pose and the coolest, smoothest moves were on show.
On another street a couple of blocks away DUDU prepares a large pot of bean stew, here children are welcome at any time, but, must bring their own bowls. There must’ve been at least 50 children crowded into the small space all having lunch. All the while children kept coming, some linger, but for some it was a matter of getting a “take-away”. I'm pretty sure the portion will be divided at home too.
Marie arrives and there’s pure mayhem, a bonnet of girls (they reminded me of bees, all abuzz) clamber into her car, by my reckoning at least 15 managed to squeeze themselves into the small space and were patiently waiting for her to finish up before being transported to the after-care centre where they’ll spend the rest of the afternoon. I could only shake my head. Thank goodness the cops have bigger fish to fry in this neck of the woods and hopefully the traffic dept will turn a blind eye!
Once again I was touched by the friendly, carefree smiles, the gratitude and eagerness to learn and please. I was overwhelmed by the generosity of our community, businesses and retirees giving freely of their time, resources and talents. People who really wish to make a difference. This is a cause where it’s hard not to put your money where your mouth is. Who can resist these beautiful children who are like sponges just waiting to be drenched with knowledge, love and a commitment to nurture them? But, first, they need their tummies filled. Without which they’ll be lost. They will die, maybe not physically but most certainly emotionally. Their hunger is multi-faceted, I look into their eyes and can’t begin to imagine what hardships they endure, uncomplainingly, on a daily basis.
Humbling, uplifting and thankful comes to mind when I recall my afternoon at Sinetemba Aftercare. I salute each dedicated person who so generously gives of their time to the least in our community. Thank you for taking such excellent care of these precious children. The survivors are the future of our country and each child lost will be our loss too and will weigh heavily on our consciences. Your compassion is the light in each child’s eyes.
Unfortunately unlike many other countries there are always limited resources or recourses, we do not have systems in place that can provide for the poorest of the poor. Many of the children come from single parent homes, some are Aids orphans being cared for by relatives, the majority of their parents are unemployed and exist on meagre child allowances. I’m sure some of these children suffer greatly as drug abuse, alcohol abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse and domestic violence is rife. None of us can begin to know or comprehend their circumstances, yet, you get the feeling that there is SINETEMBA - hope.
Here one experiences the true meaning of UBUNTU (Ubuntu is an ancient African word meaning ‘humanity to others’. It also means ‘I am what I am because of who we all are’.)
Thank you Marie for inviting me along, for getting me out of my boring comfort zone to experience this remarkable project. This child of your heart who keeps you awake at night. Your passion, drive, commitment, kindness and free spirit gives hundreds of children wings to fly. I know you and your team of sponsors, volunteers, teachers and cooks worry, fret, plan and do the math. I can’t imagine you not being able to carry on today, tomorrow, next year and the next. It must happen and I have faith it will. As the ocean is made up of drops so your work makes the world of difference to the lives of these children, to our community and our precious country.
If you are touched by this project and would like to help in any way please contact:
Marie Botha: +27 82 571 3228
"It's the greatest poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you wish."
— Mother Teresa, Roman Catholic nun
“The Flat-Tummy Fweeps –
Now, the Fat-Tummy Fweeps had full tummies of food,
And the Flat-Tummy Fweeps had eyes that were glued
To the chowderly chow that could brighten their mood,
Which they had none of, and so were subdued.
Their tummies, you see, made noises at night,
which is why the Flat-Tummies knew no delight.
And, without any food, the Flat-Tummy Fweeps
Would sag, sigh and dream of ripe orange zeeps.
With their snoots on the ground, snoot-snootin’ around
They’d cope, and they'd hope for the end of parched throats.
As the Fat Tummy Fweeps ate their butter and toast
While drinking clean water and wearing warm coats,
They’d ask lots of questions, take copious notes,
Then give the poor Fweeps a boatload of totes.
“Totes would be nice. Totes would be grand,”
Said the Flat-Tummy Fweeps, “if they came with green ham.”
‘Tis the end of poverty — what a wonderful thing!
Then all the Fweep children would wipe away frowns
To laugh with each other on Flozzle playgrounds.
They’d swing and they’d sing and they’d dance in a ring,
‘Tis the end of poverty — what a wonderful thing!”
Copied from: http://www.compassion.com/poverty/dr-seuss-flat-tummy-fweeps.htm
The kitchen up the road - Dudu
The kitchen at the school - Cynthia and Charamaine Mqela
The fabulous handyman - Boetie
The chief teacher in the container for little ones- Beauty Phillips and her teaching aid- Tabeko
The chief teacher in the container for the bigger kids- Kwezi Kaptein and her aid- Faith Kaptein.
Our new project manager - Marthinus Steyn
NEWS FLASH FROM MARIE: "We have started the crèche project- 60 pre-schoolers get collected and dropped off at 6 different crèches every day-we pay for the transport and the crèche fees. Seems as if it is going to be a great success."