Last week Nobody in Limpopo got enough food to survive for the next 21 days. This weekend was the turn of a number of other villages in the Giyani District.
Thanks to the Save a Soul project, funded by the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD), nobody will go hungry in Nobody for the next three weeks.
The food parcels are being distributed under the auspices of The Angel Network, a Johannesburg-based non-profit volunteer organisation, that has fed, clothed, housed and educated up to 30000 vulnerable children and orphans across six provinces since it was founded by Glynne Wolman four-and-a-half years ago.
Marilyn Bassin is the founder of Boikanyo - the Dion Herson Foundation, which was set up to look after indigent children and their caregivers in Gauteng’s poorest townships.
Since the beginning of the lockdown Bassin has been raising funds with the e’Pap Foundation and The Angel Network, so that they reach some of the farthest-flung regions of the country for the Save a Soul project.
The e’Pap Foundation has been around for 20 years. Rose Kransdorff runs it in memory of her late husband Basil - a philanthropist who couldn’t bear to see the poor and ill suffer - who created a porridge which literally transformed skeletal Aids children into bouncing toddlers.
Last weekend, Giyani become the 28th community that they have been able to help in the last eight weeks - reaching 28000 of the most vulnerable people in the country who might otherwise not have survived the lockdown. Local NGO partners will hand out packets of e’Pap, the specially formulated porridge filled with essential vitamins and high in minerals.
It’s prepared simply by adding water, cold or hot, and can also be used to make pancakes or muffins or mixed with milk, fruit juice or fermented milk. A single portion a day, even if there was no other food available, is enough to stave off hunger.
“e’Pap keeps you alive. Normal food parcels, with pap, sugar and tea aren’t as effective if you are really desperate. But if people get the e’Pap, they’ll make it if they’ve got nothing else,” Bassin says.
“The biggest risk for South Africa is in the outlying areas; that’s where the body count from Covid-19 will be the highest because the people who live there are the most vulnerable and the most isolated. There is no press coverage of their plight.
“I had initially thought that I would just sit out the lockdown and relax at home but within days I had started raising money for the hungry. It has been the most incredible time. This journey has taken me to places I didn’t know existed. With the three foundations working so closely together, drop-offs are made to just about anywhere,” she says.
This week, The Angel Network will have delivered three tons to Limpopo and two tons to the World Food Programme in Lesotho.
Children hold some of the packets of e’Pap distributed at Manguzi village in rural KwaZulu-Natal as part of the Save a Soul project recently. Image: supplied
Bassin tells the story of Buckets of Love, a volunteer relief organisation that found itself boarding a raft to cross a river deep in rural KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) and then hiking up hills and down dales to deliver the e’Pap they had stowed in their backpacks for the people of Manguzi village on the border with Mozambique, because there was no way of reaching them by vehicle.
“That’s the spirit of what we do. Each drop-off probably involves five different NGOs, each working in tandem towards a common goal, because we need to support the local NGOs to help their local communities all over the country.
“When you see the lengths people go to, like in Manguzi, literally going to the ends of the country to ensure that community will be able to survive, it is simply heart-warming. The good news is that it is just growing every week. People love it, both those who are giving and those who are receiving. It really is ubuntu in practice.
“It’s time for all NGOs to work together,” she says. “We can be so much stronger than we already are if we realise how much we can achieve by collaborating.”
Bassin has been overjoyed by the response of South Africans so far; “it’s just getting better and better,” she says, “when the cause is good, the money just starts to flow in”.
This week, The Angel Network was asked by the SAJBD to disburse a R9million donation, most of which was given by an anonymous donor.
As Wendy Kahn, the SAJBD national director, explains: “The past weeks have been times of great hardship for many of our communities and the Jewish community decided to do what it could to find ways to alleviate that hardship.
“Throughout the lockdown, the SAJBD has involved itself in a number of outreach projects, including establishing numerous CANs (Community Action Networks) directly linking donors with communities in need.
“After we received this donation,” says Kahn, “we decided to partner with The Angel Network who we have already been working with to find the best way to distribute this money with integrity and more effectively.”
The biggest need, she says was to provide relief packages to alleviate the hardship experienced by so many. The direct delivery of these essential food parcels will be targeted in six provinces: Gauteng, Western Cape, KZN, North West, Eastern Cape and Limpopo.
“We hope that the Covid-19 crisis will end soon, but until it does, we are committed to finding solutions and working with others to ensure that the suffering is reduced,” she says.
Wolman is overjoyed by the donation. “We are a voluntary organisation with no running costs and no one getting paid a salary, so every cent we get goes straight to the people who need to get it. Since the advent of the Covid-19 crisis, the needs have been simply overwhelming. Normally we prefer to give people a hand up, but now we have to give handouts.
“There are no words to express our gratitude, this R9m will extend our reach to areas of South Africa’s forgotten, and most vulnerable, communities. Never before has the need been so great for so many who have so little. This will provide them with the lifeline they so deeply need.”
If you would like to contribute, email email@example.com or donate directly to the SA Jewish Board of Deputies, Standard Bank, Killarney, Account 200305190, Swift code: SBZAZAJJ.