NELSON Mandela Bay pensioner Elizabeth Doctor wakes up at 4am every day to make 200 litres of soup on a single stove in her kitchen, which feeds more than 1000 needy children in the Northern Areas each afternoon.
The sprightly 70-year-old is one of almost 100 volunteers who selflessly give up their time for the Al Fidaa Foundation.
Founded in 2008, the foundation’s feeding project provides more than 100000 meals a month and has 36 soup kitchens around the Bay. More than half are in the Northern Areas.
Other areas include Walmer Township, Zwide, Kwazakhele, New Brighton, Motherwell and KwaNobuhle.
Among the recipients are 800 school children at 16 schools.
“We saw the hunger in the Eastern Cape,” said Al Fidaa founder Nazir Munshie.
“When children are hungry, they can’t learn.”
He said some schools had reported an increase in attendance since the school feeding scheme was established.
The schools are revisited every year to assess whether they qualify for help as they may have received funds from government.
“We see if there is a need. When schools appeal for help we turn no-one down,” said Munshie.
At 20 Devrill Road in Helenvale, a line of eager children, some as young as two, clutch their mugs as Doctor scoops soup from a container.
“Some of them walk far to get here,” said Doctor. “This is the only nutrition they may be getting the whole day.”
She said the children were grateful to get a meal as many of them go to school without anything to eat.
“A lot of these kids have grown up on my soup because they don’t get enough food at home.”
Doctor feeds 350 children a day from her home and provides soup for five other kitchens in the area. Around 1350 children are fed Mondays to Thursdays in Helenvale.
“Feeding is a short term solution,” said Munshie.
“This won’t solve the problem. We also have to empower and educate these children.”
Al Fidaa has started an intensive skills development programme to train, educate and empower impoverished individuals so they can become financially independent.
Part of this programme is sewing classes where young, unemployed women learn basic sewing skills under the mentorship of a Seta accredited instructor.
The foundation chose sewing classes as these skills are easily acquired and require little or no formal education or training.
On completion of the course, successful graduates can look for a job or initiate their own micro-enterprises and generate an income for themselves and their families.
The foundation also aims to establish a computer training centre at its skills centre next year and has started a project to sponsor at least one school a year with a fully functional computer laboratory.
Al Fidaa has other skills development and empowerment projects that include sponsorship of training courses and sponsorship of small businesses.
Other projects include feeding of outpatients at several hospitals and clinics and also distribution of blankets and food parcels to the needy.
The foundation is a non-profit organisation and receives funds from private donors with no assistance from the government. Because of this, Gelvandale Superspar has started an initiative where customers may donate R5 or more to Al Fidaa at till points. The amount will reflect on the customers’ till slips.
“We want the store to be used as a vehicle for donations,” said owner Craig Herman. He said every donation was accounted for.
“As Gelvan Superspar, we daily see how poverty increases. We want to get involved to reach the less fortunate.”
Herman said the work the foundation did was immense and he planned to approach the Spar’s regional office to get more stores involved in fundraising.