The timing of the start of the national lockdown was terrible for Howick NPO African Spirit — their 12-months Lotto funding lifeline had just expired and now they could not complete their application for ongoing funding.
Their craft shop, charity shop and other activities also had to close down leaving them with no funds and no hope of generating income to support their team, the impoverished community they so lovingly served through crafts skills training and even their own basic needs.
“But that [lack of funds] did not stop us from hearing the cry of our community who found themselves locked-in without food,” said Judy Smit, founder and manager of African Spirit.
“We have always fed whosoever came to our doors; no one ever left African Spirit hungry. But craft skills training has always been our focus. Feeding was just the right thing to do.”
But now the main need of the people they had been empowering through training was food for themselves and their families.
Smit said that with the help of an amazing group of people she calls her Dream Team, “we got stuck into feeding those who had become our African Spirit family”.
They launched an innovative feeding project whereby Howick residents sponsor R100 vegetable boxes from a local grocer, Touchwood veggies as well as produce from Sagewood Cafe in Pietermaritzburg. The suppliers deliver the fresh produce to African Spirit, which currently distributes the food to hungry people in Shiaz Settlement (a large informal settlement above Howick Falls), Kwamavana, Howick CBD and Howick West.
It is a demanding, day-and-night operation, to distribute the food, much of which is trundled over considerable distances into needy areas on laden wheelbarrows pushed by volunteers.
“Our caregivers know which families need it the most,” said Smit. “It has been a pleasure to be able to send such delicious, healthy food out knowing that everyone will be sharing with their neighbours, eating well for a couple of days and building their strength.”
“We are presently feeding about 100 families every week. We have called our feeding campaign Lord of the Harvest, it is only God who could have opened His storeroom and heard and fed this harvest,” she said.
A positive spinoff of the feeding campaign is that the grocers source some of the produce from local growers, thus assisting small businesses and local farmers to keep going during this difficult period.
Smit expressed thanks to members of the Howick community who have supported the Lord of the Harvest campaign so far. But she said ongoing support was urgently needed.
“We can only feed from what we have. Turning away families breaks our heart. We need more foodstuff as well as finances to sustain our work team’s basic needs.”
Smit appeals to people who are willing to support the feeding project to contact her at +27 72 147 5106 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Watch video below in which African Spirit ‘Dream Team’ members Mbali Sithole and Thediso Masopa call on the Howick community to donate much-needed food for distribution to vulnerable communities.