January birthday celebrations were ideal. Not quite the lazy, loving, Mediterranean food feasting trip I’d imagined, but time at home with Doug and the kids; and a 4 hour call with my bests and a bottle of bubbles. We ate, danced, laughed & cried the day through.
I returned to work on the 11th Jan with a spring in my step. I absolutely do not take the gift of work for granted and see it as one of my greatest blessings. These have not been three easy weeks, but they have been eventful, and for that I am grateful.
With thanks to my generous friends and family, we were able to launch SPROUTING 50 alongside the good peeps of Souper Troopers. By far, to date, this has been one of my most meaningful experiences of my life. Every contribution received both surprised, delighted and filled my soul (and eyeballs) to overflowing.
Progress on this initiative is the main reason for this post (and monthly reflection), so let me get to the detail.
Over 70% of South African’s live below the poverty line!
The idea behind SPROUTING 50 was to influence a sustainable project to support some of South Africa’s most vulnerable people. With over 70% of South African’s living below the poverty line, I feel that the need for contribution in this area is a necessity vs a nicety.
For context here’s a little more colour about South Africa:
- 59M beautifully diverse human beings populating around 1.2M sq km’s of the planet (or about 1.8 times bigger than Texas for my US friends!)
- According to my rough calculations, we have around 19M households
- Without focusing on the 200,000 homeless people for now, according to SALDRU, South Africa is one of the most unequal countries in the world (IN THE W-O-R-L-D). Reading through their material, I learnt that poverty is measured across 5 different but specific categories:
- chronically poor: 50% of South African’s
- transient poor: 11% of South African’s
- vulnerable middle class: 15% of South African’s
- middle class: 20% of South African’s
- elite: 4% of South African’s
- Despite maths not being one of my strengths (understatement of note!), I estimate that means that in South Africa, there are:
- 9,9M chronically poor households
- 2.2M transient poor households
- 2.3M vulnerable middle class households
- or a pre Covid-19 14.4 MILLION HOUSEHOLDS THAT NEED HELP
Holy guacamole, I’m going to let that sink in for a moment as I take another sip of my Hunters Dry … the last one I have left in my home of the alcoholic variety!
That leaves …
- only 4.8M middle and elite households of my fellow South African’s that can supply help.
Because I am of the belief that no one should ever have to go hungry, I felt that building a sustainable garden within a desperate community, with a single leader taking ownership (in this instance, the person running the feeding kitchen), would provide a solid foundation to nourish it’s people for many years to come. Very altruistic indeed.
Back to SPROUTING 50 …
I wanted to use this year to build a plug-and-play model which could be rolled out to other needy communities. Idealistically, the desire was to build flourishing food gardens, that could feed the masses, for many many moons to come. Or so I thought!
Through Souper Troopers we were able to identify the beneficiary of our first (pilot) project. Charmaine feeds the Hilllview 2 community, two meals a day, every single day. She does this with the help of her very giving heart, pure grit and the generosity of donors. The community of 600 people rely on her. She is responsible, accountable and enthusiastic. Frankly, i am in awe of this woman.
So with passion and conviction I drive the project forward. January is the month to get my ducks in a row. If you lived in my house during this time, you could tangibly tell all sorts of excitement was brewing inside of me.
Guns-a-blazing, we have our first meeting with the good folk of Souper Troopers, Mensch & Urban Gardens. We are taken through the practical intricacies of running such a project and the viability of the outcome, despite the noblest of intensions. Next step is to meet on site for a deeper assessment which is when the reality hits my sweet little head like a sledge hammer to a piece of sheet metal at the fair.
Six sleeps later and a launch month that is running out, I am still grappling with what is the best way to use the funds allocated to this project.
Sustainability being at the heart of its intentions, what has become startlingly clear is that building a garden at this (small) scale, is a costly exercise. The motivation needs to be driven by the desire for creating organic vegetables, sustainable gardening that is good for the environment and possibly self worth through skill building and accomplishment. While these are all admirable intentions and something I totally want for myself as a middle class South African, if feeding a hungry tummy is the main driver of this initiative, it is way (as in WAY) more economical to purchase veg from a local supplier, sourced from mass farming (hopefully ethical and sustainable).
So while I’d so much rather be reporting in with some literal earth breaking photos with happy smiles and pats on the back, I’m afraid to say that we are not there yet.
Be assured that your donations are safely set aside and amazingly growing. The intention remains to fund a sustainable project for our vulnerable communities but I am afraid to say that I am not yet convinced the garden route is the best way to go.
Last week I got to meet with the great folks of Souper Troupers again. We chatted through their short and longer term initiatives and collaborations with other Cape Town NPO’s (Mensch, Ladles of Love, Mini Meltdown, Seaboard CAN & Community Chest). I left the call feeling unsure of the direction but clear on a promise that I’d land very soon on the ideal initiative to drive my (not) midlife crisis forward.
Right now as I let the idea of SPROUTING 50 morph into a metaphor, I am reminded that I fell in love with Doug over a mouthful of Brussels SPROUTS and that, I tell you, was a really good thing indeed.
PS: fundraising continues. The focus sharpens. Though I am small, together we are mighty.