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

    Former US Envoys Urge Obama to Delay Troop Cuts in Afghanistan

    Keeping troop levels up during conflict with both Taliban and Islamic State is necessary to support Kabul government, they say

    First Lady to Visit Africa to Promote Girls' Education

    Michele Obama will be joined by daughters and actresses Meryl Streep and Freida Pinto

    Video NYSE Analyst: Brexit Will Continue to Place Pressure on Markets

    Despite orderly pricing and execution strategy at the New York Stock Exchange, analyst explains added pressure on world financial markets is likely

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

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Uncharted Territoryi
    X
    June 24, 2016 9:38 PM
    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Uncharted Territory

    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.
    Video

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.
    Video

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.
    Video

    Video Experts: Very Few Killed in US Gun Violence Are Victims of Mass Shootings

    The deadly shooting at a Florida nightclub has reignited the debate in the U.S. over gun control. Although Congress doesn't provide government health agencies funds to study gun violence, public health experts say private research has helped them learn some things about the issue. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
    Video

    Video Trump Unleashes Broadside Against Clinton to Try to Ease GOP Doubts

    Recent public opinion polls show Republican Donald Trump slipping behind Democrat Hillary Clinton in the presidential election matchup for November. Trump trails her both in fundraising and campaign organization, but he's intensifying his attacks on the former secretary of state. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.
    Video

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.
    Video

    Video Internal Rifts Over Syria Policy Could Be Headache for Next US President

    With the Obama administration showing little outward enthusiasm for adopting a more robust Syria policy, there is a strong likelihood that the internal discontent expressed by State Department employees will roll over to the next administration. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports.
    Video

    Video Senegal to Park Colorful ‘Cars Rapide’ Permanently

    Brightly painted cars rapide are a hallmark of Dakar, offering residents a cheap way to get around the capital city since 1976. But the privately owned minibuses are scheduled to be parked for good in late 2018, as Ricci Shryock reports for VOA.
    Video

    Video Florida Gets $1 Million in Emergency Government Funding for Orlando

    The U.S. government has granted $1 million in emergency funding to the state of Florida to cover the costs linked to the June 12 massacre in Orlando. U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced the grant Tuesday in Orlando, where she met with survivors of the shooting attack that killed 49 people. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video How to Print Impossible Shapes with Metal

    3-D printing with metals is rapidly becoming more advanced. As printers become more affordable, the industry is partnering with universities to refine processes for manufacturing previously impossible things. A new 3-D printing lab aims to bring the new technology closer to everyday use. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Big Somali Community in Minnesota Observes Muslim Religious Feast

    Ramadan is widely observed in the north central US state of Minnesota, which a large Muslim community calls home. VOA Somali service reporter Mohmud Masadde files this report from Minneapolis, the state's biggest city.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora