A month ago I received a request from one of our fantastic travel agencies based in California, asking me if I could assist her with delivering a package to children’s home in Khayelitsha, Cape Town.
At the time I was about to go on a marketing trip to California and was going to meet up with her and , of course, Jenman Safaris was grateful for the opportunity to help, we always love making a difference!
A week after my return to Cape Town (after my marketing trip) I with some Jenman staff headed off in search of the Iliso Care Society. I must admit that I was unfamiliar with the centre and was pleasantly surprised when we arrived. Greeting me were several volunteers with warm smiles. Mama Vivian, the founder of the centre then came to greet me, a lively, bubbly woman with a heart as big as her personality. She ushered me into the kitchen and explained to me all that she does for her community.
The Iliso Care Society is much more than a children’s home their services includes the following:
- – 12 soup kitchens throughout the township that feeds over 1200 people in a week.
- – An herb garden
- – A Youth Centre used for sports, drama, choir and also teaches them life skills
- – A Women’s centre offering support and counselling
- – A sewing group that teaches women a profession and sells their wares for them
- – A crèche (kindergarten) for 10 children
- – A foster home to several children
I chatted to Mama Vivian while a long line formed outside her kitchen window, people who were waiting for their meals. She told me the heartfelt story as to how she started out. Her two sisters died of HIV/AIDS and one of her own children died from Tuberculosis. After visiting the hospital she decided to do more research on Tuberculosis and discovered that many people died of Tuberculosis due to lack of nutrition. She then went on a personal mission to feed the hungry. Relying mostly on private sponsorships, she is now looking for new ways to put funds back into her growing centre. Currently she is building a small shop that will service the community; all of the proceeds will go back into the centre. The herb garden is also used solely for the soup kitchens.
I was deeply moved by her story and inspired by this wonderful woman!
It was then time to give the package to the children. The “package” was actually a mid-sized suitcase filled with stuffed animals, toys, games, crayons and books. I was given permission to interrupt studies for a moment and handed out some of the toys… then we all sat on the floor and played with the huge pile of things brought over from our friends in America. The children were absolutely elated and didn’t know where to start first! A football was thrown around, children were colouring, others laughing and hugging their new teddy bears. The atmosphere was absolutely gleeful.
The children then had to get back to the business of class and I was invited on a short tour of the township, with several guides excited to escort me, I called them my “entourage” and they seemed quite pleased. We walked past many of the homes, which are of course, made of tin, small homes with no running water or bathrooms but a peek inside shows a cosy living room, couches, TV’s… it is someone’s Home.
Outside there is a row of public bathrooms and a tap which is the water source for all the nearby neighbours.
I’m told that many of the residents here are refugees from other parts of Africa, Somalia, Zimbabwe, etc. Xenophobia used to be a big problem here but my guide advised that now they have learned to live together, understanding that they all face the same issue; Poverty.
Back at the centre, I said my goodbye’s to everyone, sad to leave them and hoping I will have another opportunity to return and perhaps to help in the future. Driving away the bustling township, I don’t see the infamous crime that is shouted across the world, I don’t have a sense of danger, only that of hope and a people doing the best they can under the circumstances. There is much pain here but there is also much joy to be found in the little things and most important, there is a strong sense of Community that many of us in middle class areas struggle to find.