News / Africa

Volunteers Help US Initiative to Feed South African Students

Bread is part of the lunch given to more than 100 at-risk students at the Reasoma high school in Soweto, South Africa
Bread is part of the lunch given to more than 100 at-risk students at the Reasoma high school in Soweto, South Africa

While U.S. first lady Michelle Obama has left South Africa after an emotional visit, many South African volunteers already have been practicing what she preached - ensuring healthy nutrition for at-risk students.  

It is the beginning of a school break at Reasoma high school in Soweto, but before they head home, students jostle in line as volunteers distribute loaves of bread, milk cartons, oranges and bags of cereal called Morvite.

Rosina Maredi is one of the volunteers. "They take it at home to get to eat it at home because they have got nothing at home," she said.

One of the students biting through an orange is 13-year-old Tshepo Motsoko.

"Some of us we cannot afford to get money from our parents. Some of us we cannot afford to pay school fees. Some of us we cannot afford to get food like milk, Morvite and bread, so I think it is a good project for us who do not have enough money to pay for things like this," said Motsoko.

Helping high school students

Grants for teenagers like Tschepo usually cover school fees, but not food. There are government feeding programs for primary school children, but not yet for high schools.

But on lunch breaks here at the Reasoma high school, about 120 at-risk students usually get peanut butter or jam sandwiches and sometimes soup, with fruit and milk. The bread is bought from a local baker.

School staff is also working on a vegetable garden which should reap cabbage, spinach and beet root to add to the lunches in a few month's time.

Lunchbox Fund

The initiative which extends to several other schools is spearheaded by a U.S.-based non-profit organization called the Lunchbox Fund. It relies on private and corporate donations mostly from the United States and partnerships with more affluent schools.

Project manager Gillian Wilkinson says the program encourages students to go to school since they know they will get food, keeps them healthy and also helps them concentrate.  She says there is also an important psychological dimension.

"I think it also gives the children a sense of worthwhileness and a spirit that somebody, somewhere, cares enough that they do not have to live in this bleak dispirited empty world that they have been offered so far," she said.

Many of the students targeted in the program live without their parents. Some take care of their siblings.  Some are AIDS orphans.  Some previously turned to prostitution to survive.  Others used to buy marijuana instead of food to numb their hunger since a matchbox full of drugs can be purchased for less than one dollar.

Improving the program

Teacher Lydia Rakhivhani is cleaning up a school desk.  She says the program can still be better organized.  The distribution of food can be a little hectic, she says.

"Most of the kids who come and get the food they are the boys. Ladies they are very shy," she said. "In my class, I have this one kid, she is a lady, so she asked me to get food for her, so I went there and took some food and put it in my class during lunch break. She came and fetched it from me."

Involving local businesses

Reasoma graduate 18-year-old Lesedi Lion also felt more could be done.  Several years ago, she wrote a letter to a grocery store in Soweto asking for help.

Now, every week, she comes by the store to pick up cartons of milk and bags of cereal to add to the program.

"I am from an unfortunate family so I just thought of that and then I put it in my shoes to help out more children in my school because mostly people do not take into consideration that most children in high schools are needy.  They concentrate on primary schools.  So I wanted to uplift our high school and encourage people to start sponsoring high schools," she said.

The grocery store operator, Joao Jardim, was impressed.

"It is a good thing to help. What inspired me? Her age and the courage she has and I think she is doing quite well to keep the young kids and I think that is why I tried with her and it is working," said Jardim.

Lion graduated last year, but is currently unemployed. She does not have enough money to go to university.  She says it is still important to help others, even if she faces her own difficulties.

Several of the volunteers said Michelle Obama's visit had inspired them, and that her recent speeches in South Africa had given them more strength to continue trying to help more and more challenged students, one lunch at a time.

You May Like

Cambodia Seeks Official UN Maps for Vietnam Border

Notice of request comes as 2 countries open border talks Tuesday after a clash last month More

From South Africa to Vietnam, Cyclists Deliver Message Against Rhino Horns

Appalled by poaching they saw firsthand, sisters embark on tour to raise awareness in countries where rhino horn products are in demand More

Uber Wants Johannesburg Police Protection

Request follows recent protests outside ride-hailing service's Johannesburg office More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
New Implant Could Help Restore Movement to Paralyzed Limbsi
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
Maia Pujara
July 07, 2015 10:01 PM
A half-million people suffer spinal cord injuries each year because of car accidents, serious falls and diseases, according to the World Health Organization. Researchers are now working on a soft but strong spinal cord implant that could one day restore movement in paralyzed individuals. VOA’s Maia Pujara reports.
Video

Video New Implant Could Help Restore Movement to Paralyzed Limbs

A half-million people suffer spinal cord injuries each year because of car accidents, serious falls and diseases, according to the World Health Organization. Researchers are now working on a soft but strong spinal cord implant that could one day restore movement in paralyzed individuals. VOA’s Maia Pujara reports.
Video

Video Getting it Done Beyond a Nuclear Deal

If a nuclear deal is reached between Iran and world powers in Vienna, it will be a highly technical road map to be used to monitor nuclear activity in Iran for years to come to ensure Tehran does not make nuclear weapons. Equally as complicated will be dismantling international sanctions that were originally intended to be ironclad. VOA’s Heather Murdock talks to experts about the key challenges any deal will present.
Video

Video Rice Farmers Frustrated As Drought Grips Thailand

A severe drought in Thailand is limiting the growing season of the country’s important rice crop. Farmers are blaming the government for not doing more to protect a key export. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Video

Video Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugees

In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video 'From This Day Forward' Reveals Difficult Journey of Transgender Parent

In her documentary, "From This Day Forward", filmmaker Sharon Shattuck reveals the personal journey of her transgender father, as he told his family that he always felt he was a woman inside and decided to live as one. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Floodwaters Threaten Iconic American Home

The Farnsworth House in the Midwest State of Illinois is one of the most iconic homes in America. Thousands of tourists visit the site every year. Its location near a river inspired the design of the house, but, as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, that very location is now threatening the existence of this National Historic Landmark.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.

VOA Blogs