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

Koreas Mark 61st Anniversary of War Armistice

Muted observances on both sides of heavily-armed Demilitarized Zone that separates two decades-long enemies More

Judge Declares Washington DC Ban on Public Handguns Unconstitutional

Ruling overturns capital city's prohibition on carrying guns in pubic More

Pricey Hepatitis C Drug Draws Criticism

Activists are using the International AIDS Conference to criticize drug companies for charging high prices for life-saving therapies 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.
Students in Business for Themselvesi
X
Mike O'Sullivan
July 26, 2014 11:04 AM
They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Not Even Monks Spared From Thailand’s Junta-Backed Morality Push

With Thailand’s military government firmly in control after May’s bloodless coup, authorities are carrying out plans they say are aimed at restoring discipline, morality and patriotism to all Thais. The measures include a crackdown on illegal gambling, education reforms to promote students’ moral development, and a new 24-hour phone hotline for citizens to report misbehaving monks. Steve Sandford reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Virtual Program Teaches Farming Skills

In a fast-changing world beset by unpredictable climate conditions, farmers cannot afford to ignore new technology. Researchers in Australia are developing an online virtual world program to share information about climate change and more sustainable farming techniques for sugar cane growers. As VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports, the idea is to create a wider support network for farmers.
Video

Video Airline Expert: Missile will Show Signature on Debris

The debris field from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is spread over a 21-kilometer radius in eastern Ukraine. It is expected to take investigators months to sort through the airplane pieces to learn about the missile that brought down the jetliner and who fired it. VOAs Carolyn Presutti explains how this work will be done.
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

AppleAndroid