“I had more than 200 children who came to tell me that they were orphans and that they were hungry. I couldn’t refuse them, so I started cooking for them, ”says Sylvia Mvumvu, 71, from Alexandra, Johannesburg.
Mvumvu was born in Johannesburg and has always lived in Alexandra. She runs a non-profit organization (NPO) from her home called Siyondla Umphakathi. What started out as providing regular meals to an orphaned child now provides regular meals to 35 families in the region.
Mvumvu said word quickly spread that the child was receiving food from her. “What limited me then was the size of my pot. It was there that I realized that there was a hunger problem in Alexandra and that the school feeding programs were not enough, ”she said.
MVUMVU SECURES A CONTRACT WITH WOOLWORTHS
After reaching out to the Department of Social Development for advice, Mvumvu decided to register as a nonprofit and partnered with local stores in the township. She said she also started sending food home because “the kids would often ask me to do a little bit more so that they could eat with their gogo at home.”
In 2016, Mvumvu was awarded a contract with Woolworths at Centurion. The contract is renewed every six months.
“They (Woolworths) came and did their health and safety checks and I’ve been working with them ever since. I collect the food from them and put it in packaging for distribution, ”Mvumvu said. The elderly and children collect food about three times a week.
When the lockdown began, Mvumvu said she could no longer feed the children, but continued with the feeding program for the elderly as it did not involve cooking and it was easier to ensure that security protocols were followed.
“I want to reach so many more people, but I don’t have the funds to build my own building so that I can run a proper operation with a catered-sized office and kitchen,” she said.
“The other limitation is that some children and the elderly live far away but still need food. I would love to have a bakkie so that I can deliver food to these people, ”she said.
“ SOCIAL SUPPORT DOESN’T ALWAYS REACH EVERYBODY ” – MOSES PANDEKA
This week, Mvumvu’s alley was covered with bouquets of flowers and food parcels packed by the Siyondla Umphakathi team. The packages consist of strawberries, blueberries, spinach, lettuce, potatoes, tomatoes, peas, bread and other foods.
At around 2:00 p.m., most of the older people in the community started pouring in. They were allowed to go through the door one by one. Everyone had a mask and their hands and shoes were sanitized.
Leah Mtshali, 76, who lives with her two grandchildren, has been picking up food packages from Siyondla Umphakathi for several years. “This food package also helps feed my grandchildren because I can’t pay for everything with my board,” she says.
Mtshali said Siyondla Umphakathi also used to run training, sewing and knitting classes that kept them active. “It really brought us together as a community of seniors, but I have to say I don’t miss gym classes, I’m too old for that,” she laughs.
Ward councilor Moses Pandeka said Siyondla Umphakathi helped reach people who fell through the cracks during COVID-19.
“Due to Alexandra’s large population, the social assistance the government has provided does not always reach everyone. This is where NPOs like Siyondla Umphakathi really mobilized, ”he said.
Most children receive school meals as part of the school nutrition program, he said, but during lockdown, these children could not collect food as they usually would because they were alive. far from their schools and parents did not have money for transportation.
A group of young people also opened a soup kitchen because the other children were not getting food at home “which shows that the community really came together during this time,” said Pandeka.