NOSH-letter – Noting Our Shining Heroes!
With schools reopening this week, our first “Noshletter” simply had to showcase the Tshepang Care Centre. The centre is a non-profit organization that feeds vulnerable and orphaned children from the Vusimuzi informal settlement, in Thembisa. This Noshletter is the first of a mini-series we are launching this year to highlight the outstanding work done by the beneficiaries Nosh is supporting. Nosh Food Rescue’s core mission is to reduce food insecurity by collecting and redistributing food, which would have otherwise been disregarded or destroyed. In this way, Nosh supports the development of local communities and their ultimate sustainability. The Nosh volunteer team is constantly amazed by the incredibly selfless individuals that make up its various beneficiary organisations, people who care deeply about the impact the food they salvage will have on the community.
Meeting with the Tshepang Care Centre team for the site visit was a warm and fulfilling experience. The centre was in the front line of the disruptions caused by Covid-19 and the lockdown. We arrived as the busy team of 10 volunteer ladies was finishing off the morning chores and was about to start preparing the sole meal that most of the children from the surrounding community will receive for the day.
The centre also houses a library made from shipping crates, where children receive support for their school work, as well as a crèche. Although the centre runs without electricity, the ambiance remains joyful, especially in the kitchen (equipment runs on gas) while preparing the daily food. Ten permanent children (mostly orphans) live at the centre and an average of 350 children are fed on a daily basis. This number increased to over 500 children during the most severe time of the lockdown. The crèche, which can accommodate up to 30 children, was opened to the most vulnerable parents, who could not afford the other local crèche. This invaluable service allows them to work and be assured that their children are safe and fed. Not only do these children get a meal, but they also receive early learning stimulation that will lay the groundwork for their future. Since its founding, 9 children have passed their Matric exam and 3 of them have continued on to studying at university.
The centre was born in 2013 thanks to one strong lady, Sara Sibiya, who wanted to change the life of the children from the Vusimuzi squatter camp, where over 10 000 people are said to reside. Sarah, a seasoned caretaker, could not accept seeing malnourished children, who often would go to bed without food. She left her career and devoted her time and resources to set up this centre. From the initial corrugated iron structures, the centre evolved over the years to brick walls thanks to generous donors and benefactors.
The daily lunch service was an uplifting moment to witness. Every day (except Sundays), children start flooding in from 11am onwards, turning the centre’s playground into a noisy, bustling space reminiscent of any regular school playground, where they play hopscotch or jump rope. The lunch is smoothly orchestrated via a cheerful routine where everybody sings, dances and prays before getting served. Heart-warmingly, a strong sense of communal responsibility can already be felt amongst those children; the teenagers first look after the toddlers and help them to eat before eventually serving themselves.
Sarah is dreaming big for the centre and her community. She would like to increase the capacity of the centre to accommodate more orphans, but most of all; she wants to open a primary school, to prevent children from walking long distances to the nearest school. She believes and advocates that education is the only way to build a better future, in line with the centre’s motto “Hope for a better future”. Sara keeps reminding “her” children that they “come from a shack but they are not a shack”; unfortunate circumstances brought their parents to this place, but this is not their last stop.
Despite the current difficult times that we have all experienced in one way or another, she and her team remain positive on the future for the children of the community. Over the years, Sarah has seen some massive positive changes amongst those children. Regular meals and better nutrition not only benefit their physical needs but also ensure better mental conditions. This is where Nosh has been able to play an important role, as Tshepang has been one of its beneficiaries for a number of years. This partnership allows the centre to receive a regular and consistent level of rescued food, which is turned into nutritious and delicious meals – and occasional treats – for the children.
With the schools reopening, the work of the centre will not lessen. In fact, they will remain as busy as ever and children may have a chance to enjoy two meals a day. The Nosh team is proud to be associated with the Tshepang Care Centre and trust that they won’t be discouraged by their gigantic but admirable task and will soon fulfill their dream.
Should you wish to help Nosh to assist Tshepang and other organisations like them, we’d love you to reach out to us on any of our channels. If you would like to help Tshepang direct, the centre is currently calling for school stationery and supplies as well as clothes for the community. Food and cash donations are obviously always welcome. You can contact them via their Facebook page or by directly contacting Sarah Sibiya on 082 720 3732.