Children go hungry after soup kitchen closed by July unrest

About 100 children were getting their Sunday meal at a kitchen run by people with disabilities

By Nompendulo Ngubane

2 August 2021

Photo of children queueing for a meal

Children queue for a Sunday meal at Proudly Able’s soup kitchen in Machibisa location, Pietermaritzburg, before the July unrest happened. Photo supplied

Children relying on a soup kitchen in Machibisa location, Pietermaritzburg, will not be getting their Sunday meal as usual. The soup kitchen has had to suspend its activities due to the looting of the shops that were sponsoring it in the July unrest. It may be months before it is able to serve meals again, perhaps never. Over 100 children from Dambuza, Pata, Imbali Unit J and Ashdown were relying on it.

Run by organisation Proudly Able from the home of Dr Ncamisile Vertuin, it was sponsored by Roots Butchery Meat and Chicken Wholesale and Retail, They were looted when Greater Edendale Mall was ransacked. Spar Supermarket at Kwamabulala Shopping centre in Dambuza was also a sponsor and also looted.

Vertuin, who uses a wheelchair and relies on her disability grant, says she cannot continue the kitchen without the sponsoring businesses. “I’m heartbroken. The sponsors told me to wait until further notice,” she says.

“Every Sunday kids would flock to my home for a meal. Some knew that after church the first stop is my house. I cooked them porridge and gave them sandwiches in the morning. Sometimes they ate samp, beans, soya, vegetables, rice, phuthu and chicken stew. Depending on what we had, they sometimes got ice cream as a dessert,” says Vertuin. “I was making a difference and putting a smile on their faces and that made me sleep at night.”

“Many people have lost their jobs because of Covid-19. Families are struggling to survive. Providing meals was making a huge difference, especially to the children who needed it the most. The looting happened at the time when I was expecting more sponsors from Greater Edendale Mall to come onboard in July. Their businesses were burnt and that is the end of the road for us,” she says.

Lindiwe Mkhize, from Kwamaqinase, says four of her children were benefiting from the soup kitchen. “I didn’t have to worry about what my children were going to eat … The children knew that a meal for Sunday is served at Ma’s house.”

“We are hard hit by the looting and we are praying for a miracle from God,” says Mkhize.

Proudly Able has about 30 members with disabilities. They also sew, bake, bead and teach sign language at the Poyinand community hall in Edendale.