By Vanessa Papas people Has Heart: COUNTLESS hungry children rely on Alice Care Centre and Soup Kitchen for their main meal of the day.
DO you remember the last time you went to bed hungry? Or the last time you were chilled to the bone from the lack a blanket to sleep under? Do you remember spending Christmas alone, on the streets, scavenging through dustbins for a morsel to eat while families across the world celebrated with a huge Christmas lunch and prezzies under the tree? Tragically, for many poverty-stricken children living across South Africa, it’s absolutely normal to suffer hunger, hardship and isolation.
They say just one good deed can have a ripple effect and the power to change the fate of countless others. It was with this in mind that the Alice Day Care Centre and Soup kitchen was born. Alice, situated at Egoli Township in Graceland, Elspark, near Germiston, is changing the lives of children by providing one healthy meal a day and a safe place, away from the streets, where they can learn, grow and thrive.
Founded by Alice Kambule – a woman living in the community who wanted to help change the lives of underprivileged children – the Alice Care Centre and Soup Kitchen officially opened its doors in 2008. At the time only two meals were provided, with Alice scraping together whatever funds she could to buy food. Over the years, Alice has partnered with Tracy Atkinson, who is spokesperson for the foundation and who fundraises for food every month, and today these two women are able to provide each child with one hot meal five days a week.
Alice not only looks after the needs of orphaned children but also children whose parents are not available to take care of them on a daily basis. Many of the children who come to the centre live with their guardians (mostly grandparents), are infected with HIV/Aids, or come from really poor homes. Older children that attend after school not only receive a meal but are also assisted with homework. Children currently do their homework and wash their uniforms outside of the property as there is no space in the actual building – a tiny one-room RDP house. Alice Care Centre and Soup Kitchen also provides an aftercare facility for these children, as well as a day care centre for some of the younger ones so they don’t land up wandering the streets or begging on corners. These children, currently seven in total, are all under the age of five. Alice teaches them English, sings songs with them, builds puzzles and plays games. It’s almost like a small crèche.
At any one given time, the centre has roughly between 60 and 70 children aged between one and 18 years old arriving for a hot meal, which is cooked on a two-plate gas stove every week day – Monday to Friday – without fail. The children are fed various staple foods such as mieliepap, vegetables, soup and beans, as well tinned food. Once a month, they are served fresh chicken. In addition to providing meals, the centre typically has two outings per year, as well as a Christmas party. Tracy sources or receives donations from a circle of friends and acquaintances. Turnover of assistants is high, as there are no funds to remunerate them for their efforts.
Alice rents her current premises for R1 000 per month and has been doing so for the last seven years. Money to pay rent is made by having jumble sales from donations of clothes received. However, the good news is the centre’s new building is being built by a team from Nedbank and they have undertaken to do the finishing touches to the building.
Currently Tracy is overseeing the treatment of one of the care centre attendee’s – Lindo. A doctor has agreed to to see Lindo, who was badly burnt in a shack fire, and assess whether they can remove the trachie that he still has in his throat 18 months down the line.
The Centre has no Government assistance and as such depends largely on donations from the community and the goodwill of others. Alice is, however, in the process of applying to have the centre PBO-registered. Being a PBO (Public Benefit Organisation) will allow companies who assist Alice to claim back tax.
Pay It Forward
In addition to a place to run the centre, she is always in need of clothing and food for the children. She and Tracy have started a student programme whereby they will be giving extra lessons to the children, so donations of stationery would also be appreciated.