eThembeni is based in Ladysmith, KwaZulu-Natal. This is their story.
Describe your process for putting together food parcels (who did you buy from, transport challenges, any awesome stories of provision).
We started looking for a reasonable price through local wholesalers. A local wholesaler was willing to journey with us as they have also tried before to reach out to the community and give back. The owner offered to transport the food parcels to different locations for free, but we needed to then gather beneficiaries in those locations to do the distribution. They gave us a very good food parcel that consisted of 10 kg Mealie meal, 10 kg Rice, 10 kg Cake Flour, 5 kg Sugar beans, 5 kg Sugar, 500g Soup, 6x125 g tinned fish and a Zulu/English Bible.
The total amount of these items were R545.00, over spent with R45 on the given budget but we have worked out a plan of how to make it out.
Food distribution took longer to implement than planned due to having to wait for food transport to deliver, the vast distances covered and the rural areas that villages and schools are located in. Where villages were too remote, personal vehicles with off-road capability had to be used to transport food.
Who did you distribute parcels to?
eThembeni’s recipient list for food parcels included families of children reached through Transformers programme, women participating in the Women Empowerment programme and identified community members within 150km of Ladysmith. First food distributions started on Monday 24 August in kwaHlathi and eBusi, KwaZulu-Natal. Distributions continued up to mid-October in outlying areas.
Learners from Ndalela High, Mhlanganyelwa High, Makhoyane High, Hydeswood Primary, Steadville High, Gqama Primary, ML Sultan Primary, Slindokuhle High, Bhande High, Slokoza High, Botchkloof High, Wasbank Primary, Dlabesuthu Combined School, Mqamathi High School, Mhlumba Primary School and Mahlahlamela Combined School received food parcels for their families.
In Keate’s Drift, 60 families received food parcels. Some stared with disbelief as they realized the food was for them.
Food parcels were also distributed to members of the women’s Self Help groups in Bergville, Rockdale, Rosboom, Ladysmith, Mhlumayo, Mkhumbane, Sahlumbe, Nazareth and Machunwinini.
Another 20 food parcels were handed out to vulnerable families identified by the Statutory Office.
How many food parcels did you distribute?
We have delivered 570 parcels to date. The remaining 50 will be taken to outlying areas in the next week.
Who helped you distribute the food parcels?
eThembeni relied on staff members, local churches, school leaders and partnering organisations to distribute the food through the community.
Partner churches included Msinga Keats Rift Congregation, Weenen Congregation, Nhlalakahle Congregation, Ladysmith Congregation, Bergville Congregation, Estcourt Congregation and Itshe Legumbi Zion Church.
ABOVE: THE FIRST FOOD DISTRIBUTIONS AT HLATHI & EBUSI
How were the food parcels received by the beneficiaries (any stories of God-in-time, specific needs met etc.)?
Nkazimulo Ngcobo reports on the food distribution at Keats Drift:
Thank you so much to the eThembeni partnership who donated 60 food parcels to the families on deep rural at Msinga (Keats Drift). I was so excited that I began to distribute the food without any delay. Little did I know just how much this act of random kindness would mean to the 60 families. Many people cried, because they had nothing and nowhere to ask for food. Some stared with disbelief till they realised that the food was for them and their families. Little children danced and started singing. I was definitely NOT prepared for my own emotions when driving back to the house. There was a silence mixed with many flashbacks of our own lives which are not much different to what was experienced during the distribution process.
It reminded me of that part in the movie called “In the line of duty” where the police officer, harshly and openly judged by a young internet journalist, told the journalist that she will never fully understand what it means to be a police officer trying to stay alive, until she walked a mile in his shoes.
I can safely say that you have walked more than a mile in the shoes of poverty. A journey that I know so well ourselves. Every time I deliver a food parcel to a family and go through the experiences described above, I come back to my house not feeling like heroes, but with a heart filled with gratitude that we could be an instrument/tools in God’s hands at a time like this. Thankful that our own poverty and daily needs did not make us blind to the needs of others.
When we say thank you we say it from hearts of people who know generational cycles of poverty, who struggle daily but are so grateful to have this generous donation to help feed families and also feed our own souls with hope and word of God that motivate to keep going. Thank you so much for organising this and also to everyone else involved in making this donation possible. Please know that 80 families or 487 vulnerable children, women, disabled and elderly people in Msinga area at Keats Drift are eating. Thank you so much!
Any other food parcel stories, learnings or personal comments you want to share?
The wholesaler was amazed how eThembeni was caring for the communities and felt that his business should also give back to local communities “Umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu” (“a man is for a man”)
Sihle Madonsela commented:
“There is nothing painful than to see an old lady cry because she will not worry for a while about the next meal. The schools gave their thanks to the project that they have been working together with in making sure that the young and future leaders are being taken care of and with the kind heart from the sponsors of this project may the Lord continue to bless them and pour this wisdom of giving to the generation ahead of them. From my experience is that gone are those times where people will be there for each other or that a neighbour will always help one another. All that is in the past in our communities. But thanks to our sponsors who reminded us of this good culture that we all need each other and together we can do more.”
The Transformers Msinga team leader says:
From Vryheid Christelike Maatskaplike Dienste, a partner organization assisting eThembeni with food distribution:
“Mfundisi. I really felt so humbled and blessed by the fact that I can at least be able to get food for my family. We delivered one food parcel today. On our arrival the mother was on the neighborhood to borrow a five litre maize meal hoping, not knowing as to how long it will last her. When we arrived she and her husband and children just burst on tears and praised God who never abandon them. It was so touching.”
Mama Makhaya, Self Help Group coordinator, says:
It’s a good feeling knowing that some communities or families are going to have something on the table for the next couple of days until they are in good state to stand again because the effect of COVID 19 has killed more functioning routines in our daily lives. I would like to thank the organisation and the partners who gave us the opportunity to be part of giving out help to families when they desperately need it, thank you to the sponsors.”
Community member in the Self Help Groups:
“The situation at home is very bad as I have been having my own business that is not going well at this stage because of the Lockdown so we have to depend only on the social grant which was not enough to keep us for the whole month. But we give thanks to CMD as an organisation that have thought of us at this difficult time and the people behind the organisation who have been thinking of the community in need.”