After more than two years of keeping e’Pap running without our normal regular meetings we have at long last managed to meet face to face in small groups once again. What joy to meet in a home, share our stories and enjoy the fellowship of getting to know other e’Pap volunteers and enjoy cups of tea and scrumptious eats.
Over the past month we have had a series of six small group meetings, each one different in dynamic because of the people in the group and the nature of their schools. However the overriding feeling was one of joy at meeting up again, of gratitude in being able to serve our community and nourish the children especially in this cold weather. We know that we are providing a warm, nutritional bowl of e’Pap each morning ensuring that the children are able to learn better and participate in the activities of the day with energy and healthy bodies. Networking regarding school needs was enthusiastically pursued. One example was the matching of a school needing a stove with a volunteer who had one to give. This volunteer was at her very first meeting.
We were thrilled to have some new younger volunteers join us for the first time. One of these was a young man who arrived on his motor bike, another was a lady on her bicycle. Their enthusiasm and energy was a breath of fresh air. The combination of experience of our loyal long serving volunteers together with the fresh ideas and energy of the newer folk is helping to build sustainability for our project.
Most of the conversations in these meetings were, of course, about ........
Several stories featured children who had started the year with telltale signs of malnutrition, but after a few weeks of regular e’Pap breakfasts, they were full of beans and looking healthy. We have constant reminders that e’Pap does not simply fill tummies but restores health, energy and the ability to respond to life’s opportunities.The numbers of children in the schools is lower than pre-Covid times. However the numbers are growing steadily and a common feature is that those who are being fed need bigger helpings. This seems to be because parents are without jobs and battling to cope. The occasional burglaries where only food like e’Pap and blankets were stolen are indicative of tough times.
We have become aware of children not at Pre-schools begging for food from the teachers. In response we now have a few kind ladies in the community who regularly volunteer to serve e’Pap to these children. We are so grateful to these “township mother Teresas”.
Our care for the children is not limited to food. A number of kind hearted ladies knit beanies and jerseys during the Winter months and we have been able to provide these precious gifts to some of our children. Times are tough and children are cold and hungry and our donors have enabled us to respond. We currently serve e’Pap to about 4,500 children. Knysna & Sedgefield.
Many of the teachers are enthusiastically getting back to “normal” again with numbers slowly increasing as Covid retreats. Many volunteers have delighted in spontaneous joy and hugs from the children as they resume visiting their schools again. One of our volunteers told us of how she interacts with the children: pretending to start up her car, them copying her, the boisterous singing and generally having fun. She always leaves with the children laughing, and she feeling happy and grateful for the visit. She expressed admiration for the teacher who had some years ago moved out of her own home and into a shack in order for her home to be used as a school building.
There were also some sad stories. One regarding the school for the disabled children. This had been housed in an outbuilding of a Primary School but has had to close due to the building being unsafe. The children are now at home and the teachers have lost their jobs. Stories like these really tug at the heartstrings.
On a more positive note the majority of our schools are running very well, many of them also providing a wholesome lunch with soya mince we supply and vegetables - in a couple of cases grown onsite
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