In earnest this project started on the 1st April, April’s Fools Day, imagine? Who would have expected it to have been the worst joke played on humankind? #Covid19. The name that has changed the face of the world as we know it and taken many casualties in its path.
I am based in a beautiful part of SA called Sodwana Bay, a tourist destination for diving and fishing (part of iSimangaliso Game Reserve).
Photo Credit: Mape Siphelele
The closest town is called Mbazwana about 10km from Sodwana. Mbazana is also a service point for Lake Sibaya and the surrounding areas of Mbazwana, it forms part of the greater Umhlabuyalingana Municipality. If you came for a visit you would have found a busy little town with food markets and all the bustle a rural town brings. There are about ten thousand people here and they all rely on farming and tourism to support them. Water is a luxury, many walk 25kms a day for the essential human right to drink and cook. I don’t want to paint you a sad story, it isn’t one, this is a good news story. This community has more smiles than they have breath. The beauty of the surroundings leaves one with little to complain about until CoVid19 hit and we ran out of food and small income.
A small group of humans have been trying to feed a community in a rural area that was supported by social grants in the past. The residents were hungry before lockdown. Most don’t work but those that do work, are crafters who make tourist gifts like baskets and carvings, wash cars etc. there is no tourism now and those that lived hand to mouth are no longer able to eat. (Not that they were really eating before – to be fair). There are many generations living under one roof and close proximity is mandatory. There is limited access to social media so only small amount of education about CoVid19 has passed on about the preventative measures. To be fair, today, there has not been a single recorded case for miles across our region. That’s a good news story, isn’t it? Yes it is and it’s luck because there is no money for soap, let alone an education mechanism to teach people what to do with it to keep safe.
Photo Credit: Zululand Observer
There are three people involved in this project and there are another two projects running in the region. I called our project #FeedRuralKZN, I never thought for one minute how ambitious I was being, but here we are feeding rural KwaZulu Natal.
The generosity of people is the only reason this project has survived, TzuChi became a regular donor of rice “with love from Taiwan”, Shane Richter from Magogos donated over 2400 litres of sorghum drink to the community. A man who we call the “Dutchman who saved Mbazwana” gives a large portion of his pension and he feeds 250 families every time he donates from his place in Holland. Euros are a treasure to #FeedRuralKZN!
Here’s how brilliant the higher power is, call it what you like, but there is divine intervention into this project. In 1485 (well actually about 2006) I met a wonderful woman called Samantha Massey. We were clients first and then besties for life. After a harrowing interview on ENCA, my phone rang and Samantha brought Santa Shoebox into my life. Well actually in 1880 (read 2015) I did pro-bono work by monitoring the activity for Santa Shoebox so I was aware of their exceptional work. So here we are today being a massive beneficiary as #FeedRuralKZN of the magic that comes from Santa Shoebox.
To start with they gave us 52,000 meals for school children through Rise Against Hunger, this has been given to 12 primary schools and every primary school child had more than one meal. That is extraordinary!
The focus turned to women and the girl child. With the help of Lifebuoy (through SSB) we delivered 210 hand sanitizers and this gift – SubZ. This product is incredible. They are reusable sanitary towels with adjustable underwear to help a girl child through puberty. This was accompanied by a donation of washing soap that will help over 200 young woman make their way through puberty. Twenty ladies received menstrual cups, an item that has lifelong use.
Permission was given to publish this photo and video
I feel like I’m on one of the infomercials, don’t answer yet, wait for this drum roll (pun intended). You’ll remember we spoke about water being a commodity that some walk up to 25kms per day to source? Well enter the Hippo Roller! Another life altering gift from Santa Shoebox. Fifteen Hippo Rollers have been delivered to small communities. Each Hippo Roller carries 90 litres of water and the ingenius device makes the weight of the water the equivalent of 10kgs. This means that 15 small communities will have water at their doors, easily and often.
Photo Credit: HippoRoller.org
Permission was supplied by the beneficiaries to publish this photo.
A word on logistics. You’ll remember that we are in rural KZN and our location has proved more than challenging in receiving these critical donations. Without help from the Road Freight Association, Freight Care Logisitics, Vector Logistics, Thelo Resin and the Red Cross not a single item would have made its way here to our precious Mbazwana. We are 4 hours from Durban and 2 and a half hours from Richards Bay by car.
We received donations of cash from a handful of generous community members and an enormous contribution from SAJBD and the Angel Network where, via publicity on Chai FM, they made a donation of R50,000 to Feed Rural KZN for food parcels. This enormous gift meant that 200 families (about 600 people) have food for a solid month.
As I write a conclusion for today we have already collected a further 300 bags of Samp for distribution once the grants dry up and we have another spectacular gift that shines a light on what has been and continues to be an epic journey… Santa Shoebox (I may have mentioned them) have donated Little Suns to our community. They are solar necklaces that kids wear outside and they self charge to illuminate a whole room at night so that same child can do their school work in an area without any electricity. How magnificent is this gift?
Photo Credit: Little Sun
South Africa, you have gone beyond expectation in a time where everyone has lost something. Thank you on behalf of our community. Please keep giving. We will need help for the next year at least. I know you will. I’ve seen the power of ubuntu!
Grateful Active Citizen and CoVidder