At five in the afternoon, more than 100 children sit amongst the playground of Little Angels, waiting to be fed. Within minutes, bowls of steaming and nutritious stew are delivered into their eager little hands, accompanied with a slice of bread and a cup of juice, and a feeding frenzy begins. For many of the children, most of whom are under the age of six years old, this is their one guaranteed meal for the day, and as the bowls are licked clean, their tummies full and their faces smiling, they run off to play with their friends.
This is the Hangberg 50c Feeding Project, operated from the Little Angels early childhood development centre for underprivileged children in the township of Hangberg, Hout Bay.
Operating out of three simple Wendy houses on a small plot of land, Little Angels was started in 2011 by community leader and social worker Liezel Matthews, who recognised the desperate need for childcare in her community.
“There are high levels of substance abuse, criminality, domestic violence and HIV/AIDS in Hangberg,” says Liezel. “Children are always the most affected and here we try to get them off the streets and give them the love and education they deserve.”
With a heart of gold and a spirit of conviction, Liezel and her three volunteer teachers, all of whom are reformed substance abusers, now care for 60-80 children everyday, providing them with basic childcare, education, and hope in an otherwise desperate situation. Working closely with the Hout Bay Christian Social Upliftment Organisation, Child Welfare, local police departments, and the local Health Centre, they both monitor and ensure that care is given to children in the community. They also run a youth leadership program for young teenagers, who help the children with their studies and provide a social network that goes deep into the community.
As Little Angels began to take shape, Liezel soon realised that even though they were providing education and care, children were suffering from malnutrition and regularly did not have the food they needed to survive. She appealed to the members of the ‘Hout Bay Organised’ Facebook page, and the response was overwhelming.
Lee Warren, Ellen Nortje, Annie Mercer, Helen Hays, Kerry Shrimptom, and Margot Martherus decided to champion the cause, forming the Community Logistical and Planning team. Together they made an appeal to local restaurants and businesses to start the Hangberg 50c Feeding Project. They began by providing sandwiches and fruit to children on a Saturday and to avoid the creation of hand-out mentalities, they asked the parents of the children to pay 50c, hence the name of the Project. As support from the community grew, it was only three months before they began providing healthy and nutritious meals to more than 150 children three times a week.
“Hout Bay, we are in awe!” says Lee. “We cannot thank you enough. Your support has changed the lives of so many children and we hope that this project will continue to grow from strength to strength.”
Thus far, the feeding project is supported by local businesses Pakalolo, Posticinos, Bugattis, Deli Delish, Spiros, Ragafellows, Kitima, Caturra, Home Heros, and Luigis and Pescarne who will soon be involved. SuperSpar Hout Bay, has provided freezers, gas cookers, storage space, rolls and ingredients for soup made by Urban Nosh; Shoprite Checkers is looking into creating employment opportunities for the community; and OK Mini Mart provides consistent donations of bread. Numerous individuals have volunteered their time to make deliveries and help feed the children. There has also been international support from KLM Airlines and Sonepar Germany who are helping to provide a fence.
While the support has been overwhelming, the need is still great. Little Angels has very limited infrastructure, and with no electricity, no kitchen, no proper ablutions, no outside shelter and very little land and space, caring for the children – whose numbers grow on a daily basis – is still challenging.
“We are appealing to local business owners and philanthropists to please support this project,” says Liezel. “Our needs are great, and only by working together can we work to create a better society. This is a place called home for a lot of children, and we need help to keep this beautiful family of ours going.”
Or contact Lee Warren directly at firstname.lastname@example.org / 076 041 4974.
Article written for the Good News Publication, March 2014.