Before we left Khayelitsha, we had another stop, this one was quick but important. The day before we had stopped in the Bo Kaap neighborhood of Cape Town to stop in a bulk food store. We were there to purchase several very large bulk bags of rice and beans to donate to a small soup kitchen in Khayeltisha. When we got to the kitchen, it turns out that it is not really a kitchen in any Western sense of the word. Instead, it is a small shack, built in the tiny front yard of a tidy two room house. There is a small table with two longer benches in the front yard, all in a space of about 15 feet by 10 feet total. Rosie, the Xhosa woman who runs the kitchen, feeds almost 200 hungry children every morning and evening, and in the middle of the day, if there is enough food, she feeds local hungry adults when she can. She does this on her own, relying on food donations. She has no funding source or government support. Years ago a local church donated the large pots and pans and gas grill she uses to cook the food (before that, local kids would bring whatever small cookers they could for her to use, and then run them back home after she made the food).
Kids here are largely unsupervised—or rather, are supervised by the larger community—and parents often will be forced to leave for days at a time to work. Jobs are scarce and money is extremely tight, often leaving children hungry except for food that can be scrounged from neighbors or school or community centers. While children are not starving here, there is extreme food insecurity, and the average child lives on one meal a day. Rosie began informally sharing whatever she had with hungry kids who were friends with her own kids, and her mission expanded from there.
When we got there, we unloaded the bags of rice and beans we were donating, and Rosie started crying. She told us that she had just been praying, as she had literally run out of food that morning and had nothing to serve for the children in the afternoon. She was so grateful for our donation, and I’m not sure any of our students had seen such a huge need filled by so little. Some of us were crying too.