A big Durban thank you to the bread and milk heroes

By Frank Chemaly Time of article published Jul 24, 2021

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Feeding hundreds of KwaZulu-Natal’s most vulnerable in a week of riots, with no fresh food being delivered and no shops open, was the reality faced by many old age homes and children’s homes.

This week they gave their heartfelt thanks to local people who came to the rescue, paying tribute to the many small acts of kindness that collectively made such a huge impact.

Terry Sterling, general manager of Garden Grove, a retirement centre with 130 residents and 30 staff, couldn’t thank the community enough.

“Imran Bobat and the trustees of the Musgrave Musjid in St Thomas road were fantastic.

“Our bread and milk had run out, and they supplied for all our residents.

“We had no deliveries last week, and our food supplies were running terribly low. Feeding 160 people is a challenge,” he said, adding that they normally had a couple of deliveries every day.

“The supermarkets couldn’t help. Our butchery was looted. Our veg supplier couldn’t get to the market. No-one had any stock. And suddenly there was no staff. We made do with what we had left. We ran out of fresh veg and potatoes, stretched out chicken and meat, and filled up with powdered soup and the odd jelly as pudding. There was no fruit, and when a donation came in on Friday, we were all excited.

“The amazing thing is that the community made a plan. One of the resident’s family knew a farmer who had eggs and drove to Zinkwazi to collect 200 eggs. Pedro’s takeaway donated rolls.

“The Muslim community stepped up big time and really made an impact. Each resident got a loaf of bread and milk each day and at the end of the day, what was left they gave to the staff,” he said.

It was a kindness and generosity extended to everyone. “It was very humbling. There were people driving a Jag or BMW parking in the road and standing in the bread line like everyone else. Some of my residents had run huge companies, but there they were, standing in a line,” he said.

Mohamed Gany chairman of the NMJ with a delivery of bread in Durban last week.

“The biggest challenge was that we didn’t know when it would end. The residents don’t have any stock of food ‒ they may keep snacks and little treat items ‒ so the kitchen couldn’t fail them,” he said.

Another issue was sourcing medication. “We use a huge amount of nappies in the building, so it was not just food running short. Medication was a nightmare, with the week spent trying to get hold of doctors and getting scripts to pharmacies that could still supply them,” Sterling said.

Tafta CEO Femada Shamam described the response as ”absolutely phenomenal”.

The organisation, which houses about 1 500 residents, and has many more in the community to whom it supplies meals, was “incredibly grateful”.

“We had massive anxiety over access to food, but the people of Durban came to the party.

“We put out a call for assistance and people responded. These were ordinary citizens who shared whatever they had. Individual efforts that meant we could pack hampers for our residents,” said Shamam.

She had been part of a team of staff packing flour and sugar into smaller bags to distribute in the hampers. “I was incredibly touched when collecting donations. A family came through with a packet of groceries. They had extra because the Joburg family had sent them stuff. It might have been six tomatoes and a few onions, but they said ‘we’ve got too much, so we wanted to give this’. These random acts of kindness collectively had a huge impact,” she said.

One of the problems was keeping the Meals on Wheels scheme for people in the community going, especially with the shortage of petrol. “Whoever had fuel in their vehicle made the deliveries, many times sending two or three days worth of meals, to save petrol,” she said.

Tafta is concerned that the challenges aren’t over, because many older people who were supported by family may no longer have that support.

Narendra Pattundeen, CEO of the Aryan Benevolent Home in Chatsworth, which houses 500 elderly residents and 100 children, said this hit them “below the belt”.

“Fortunately there were no injuries or damage, so we are grateful for that, but we needed to get food to our residents, and put out a call for groceries. People came to us from all walks of life and gave generously. The hand of God works 100%,” he said.

One of the problems was that staff couldn’t get to work. “Senior staff stepped in. The public helped as well. We could not have done this without the support of the community,” he said.

“One thing is this unrest has brought people together. It has connected the home with the people. There aren’t enough words to say how grateful we are,” he said.

Thabisile Makhasi, a social worker at the KwaMashu Christian Care Society, said the centre’s 85 elderly and frail residents would not have got through the week without community support.

“We ran out of food,” she said. “We don’t have a store to buy the food at the moment. But some people provided bread and some milk and we were even given some cake. It was help we really needed. Our residents were never hungry,” she said.

The Lakehaven Child and Youth Care Centre, with the Wiiliam Clarke Children’s home in Sydenham, looks after 67 children, from babies to 18-year old children.

Manager Niresh Ramklass said it was very difficult to access bread, milk and baby formula. “It’s normally delivered from Makro, but that was looted and all the roads were closed.

“We’re enormously grateful to community members and donors who brought items to our facilities ‒ bread rolls, meat and vegetables especially, that our children and staff needed. Our staff also stayed with the children because they couldn’t get home.

“Everyone played their part. For their extraordinary effort we want to say our heartfelt thanks for the communities ‒ it would have been very difficult for us to cope on our own,” he said.

More help is on the way this week with major retail stores, corporations, and Sharks rugby pledging millions to get the province back on its feet.

The Sharks, through shareholder MVM Holdings, have committed R1 million towards a #handsofhope campaign aimed at rebuilding the province with a message to show what “South Africans can achieve when we join hands to work together for a common cause”.

The campaign began with a 10-day soup kitchen to feed 1 000 people daily at Jonsson Kings Park. The Sharks will also be rebuilding as many shops or community facilities as they can within communities that have been affected by looting, and distribute essential food to communities in dire need.

To contribute visit www.sharksrugby.co.za

Gordon Mc Donald, executive director of the Ubuntu Community Chest in Durban, said the Durban and Pietermaritzburg Chests would distribute a consignment of hygiene products from Johnson & Johnson, in partnership with the Community Chest of the Western Cape, to the 130 beneficiary organisations they support. “The donation will be focused on where it will make the most difference in people's lives,” Mc Donald said.

Feed the Nation Foundation has pledged R1 million towards relief efforts.

The foundation also provided 10 tons of bulk groceries to aid organisations, Food Forward SA and SA Harvest; and has delivered baby formula to the Domino Foundation. Pet food was delivered to the SPCA in Pietermaritzburg and to the Centre for Rehabilitation of Wildlife in Durban, while urgent food assistance was provided to the Seth Mokitimi Methodist Seminary in Durban.

Massmart committed R13 million to recovery efforts with an initial consignment of 90 tons of food to Gift of the Givers and Food Forward SA.This includes much-needed items like rice, baby formula, peanut butter, coffee, canned fish, and maize meal.

KZN Response, a collective of Christian organisations which was created in response to the Covid-19 lockdown last year, has been helping communities affected by food shortages. Comprising the KZN Christian Council; Zoë-Life; The Domino Foundation; The Red Cross Society and CityHope Disaster Relief, they are managing trucks full of donations and distributing food and essential items to affected communities. Tons of maize have been donated by Premier Foods and sent from Gauteng to be distributed through the combined networks.

The Independent on Saturday

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