By Mmathabo Maebela and Asemahle Dinge
A programme that began as a soup kitchen during the COVID-19 lockdown period has now blossomed into an effective community initiative aimed at changing the lives of school-going children – one meal at a time. This initiative, ‘Meal after School’, was founded by Makhanda resident Limise Gagayi this August and operates at her home in Ethembeni, Extension 6. Gagayi feeds the children daily, depending on the food availability from donations.
“I grew up in a large family of 13 children, so I was taught that if you have a slice of bread, you cannot eat alone, you must share it, and I was also taught that isandla sihlamba esinye, meaning you cannot succeed alone you need people hence I established the initiative,” she said.
On her visit to Makhanda Primary School, she discovered that many children had dropped out of school due to social issues in the community. She then hoped to combat some issues by providing them with meals. She knows that the schools provide meals for the children through government feeding schemes. However, it is not enough as it is some children’s only meal for the day.
The initiative fed approximately 100 children on the first day, which has increased since then. Although there is a food shortage, the programme can continue functioning with the support of external donors. However, more still needs to be done to ensure enough to feed every child.
As part of this initiative, her husband, Masixole Gagayi, manages a vegetable garden for the children. That way, they engage in agricultural activities during weekends and are protected from negative influences, such as drug use, crime, and teenage pregnancy, which are prevalent in society. A book club is also underway to combat the statistics of school children struggling with reading and writing in schools around Makhanda.
After seeing the poster for donation on a Facebook platform, 14-year-old Kingswood College learner, Arie-mae Bailey contacted Gagayi so she could donate food to the kitchen. This is also part of her community service, where she believes it is important to help those in need. “I think it’s right to give people what I have, plus it’s very important to have a meal after school because you’re tired from working and you need the energy,” said Bailey.
Gagayi urges the community to give out as many donations as possible to ensure the survival and expansion of the food drive. “The donations do not have to be money, but rather the little that a person has food like bread, polonies, jam, and cookable food items because a little can make a huge difference,” she explained.
The initiative needs donations to keep its doors open. To help with this initiative, one can contact Limise Gagayi at 073 242 3310.