Visit Stellenbosch shifts focus from welcoming tourists to helping the vulnerable
South Africa went to into lockdown at midnight on March 26. By 10am the next day, Jeanneret Momberg, general manager of Visit Stellenbosch, knew that urgent intervention would be required to help the most vulnerable people in the community survive lockdown.
“We recognised the need for a feeding scheme almost immediately, and as the official tourism body for Stellenbosch, with established networks in place, we started putting out calls for help," said Momberg.
Soon partners like Stellenbosch Municipality, Stellenbosch University, the Stellenbosch Civil Advocacy Network (SCAN), which is a network of community NGOs, Ranyaka, and the Greater Stellenbosch Development Trust came on board to mobilise support, raise money, put administrative measures and financial controls in place and distribute the aid to where it was needed the most.
Momberg credits solid relationships, credible partners and ongoing collaboration with local government – and the support of Stellenbosch residents themselves – for the quick response: “We managed to raise R500 000 within the first week. It was astounding, especially when you consider that donations ranged from anywhere between R100 and R1500.”
The project, which is run under the umbrella ‘Stellenbosch Unite’, managed to distribute 3 300 food parcels each week via two channels: 1 200 food parcels through SCAN to a network of families already in need and 2 100 food parcels to families directly affected by Covid-19, including informal workers such as car guards, garbage pickers and street vendors. It soon became apparent that another 4 000 people in and around Stellenbosch needed help. Momberg’s team agreed that the addition of a mobile ‘soup kitchen’ would allow the team to feed almost double the amount of people currently being served.
Again, Stellenbosch has answered the call, with local chefs like Bertus Basson, Brendan Stein, James Would, George Jardine, Cornelle Minnie, Stephan Fraser committing to contribute to the 1,500 litres of soup required each day.
“It’s a massive ask, but we need a steady supply of nutritious soup for our various distribution points, and we hope with the support of residents, eateries, companies and local establishments we’ll be able to meet the need – the alternative is heartbreaking," said Momberg.
To date, Stellenbosch Unite has raised R2 million and distributed 15 939 food parcels.
For Momberg, this speaks to the ‘warm heart’ of Stellenbosch: “This project has been embraced and supported by Stellenbosch businesses, local residents, alumni of the university and even local and international visitors who have been to Stellenbosch and fallen in love with our beautiful town.”
Just one example of this collective effort is the design and implementation of a data system to support Stellenbosch Unite’s work. Engineers, Riaan Truter and Wihan Bekker from
African Data Technologies (ADTech) have developed a data system to capture beneficiary’s details, conduct a full needs assessment, weight the application and generate much-needed data for the programme.
While Momberg is overwhelmed by the support received, she also realises that the project cannot afford to run out steam: “We need to continue until at least the end of October. This means we’re relying heavily on the kindness of outside individuals and on repeat donations," she added.
Stellenbosch Unite is now looking to the future. This includes decentralising all relief support so that the community can adhere to social distancing protocols, including community coordinators who deliver soup to different points in the community to avoid long lines. And moving to a voucher system, which gives people dignity, choice and the ability to support local shops and projects.
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