For over seven decades, the venerable Forest Town School in Saxonwold has provided specialized education, care and expert support to children with physical and other disabilities.
Today, a substantial proportion of its pupil body come from under-privileged homes, and the school thus has a feeding scheme whereby such children are provided with breakfast and lunch at the school - their only daily meals. There are approximately seventy students who together with their families are being supported by Forest Town during lockdown. One of the school’s biggest concerns since the lockdown began has been physically getting food parcels delivered to their homes, since they live all over Johannesburg.
Enter the Senderwood CAN, headed up by Lee-ann Jackson. Their solution to getting food to the far-flung recipients was through fundraising for Checkers Virtual Food Vouchers. On 22 April, the first batch of vouchers, valued at R300, were sent to 63 families, and within half an hour or less of receiving them on their phones, some recipients were already inside Checkers buying food. Two further batches of vouchers have been sent since then. To date raised over R60 000 has been raised for the project.
The logistics of organising the distributions was not easy. Explains Lee-ann, “We had a list of these families, areas they live and the details of the various caregivers’ who look after them. Our challenge was to contact these families, finding out which parent or main caretaker is looking after them, confirming they have access to Checkers stores, and only then could start proceeding with sending vouchers”.
In all of this, Lee-ann has had the assistance of Sharna Goldstein, an OT at Forest Town School, and her “amazing team of teachers”.
The Senderwood – Forest Town CAN has been dedicated in loving memory of Hilton Smookler, who sadly passed away over this period, to inspire others to do small acts of kindness. Lee-ann writes that he was known in the community for being “a very humble, kind, caring and generous man who lived his life always performing small acts of kindness to his community”. His example is being followed by his daughter Robyn, who has been one of those from the Jewish community who have been at the forefront of helping the desperately impoverished even before Covid-19 struck.
The Senderwood CAN will be reaching out to the community and friends to try and get more donations so as to sustain the vouchers being sent to these families over this difficult time.