J&P Wants To Help Give Out More Food Parcels
The bishops’ Justice & Peace Commission (J&P) is negotiating with the United Nations to explore possibilities for a second phase of its food relief initiative.
This comes after J&P in partnership with United Nations Women in South Africa distributed food items to Winterveldt, a poor village in northern Pretoria, as part of the Covid-19 food relief initiative. The purpose of the outreach was to donate food parcels to 160 poor people.
Among those were 30 women from the Mercy Sisters’ Thusanang Primary Healthcare Centre, which helps poor women with sustainable projects. Established in 1987, Thusanang started with nine women from the Winterveldt area, mainly South Africans.
But with high migration, the centre now caters for women from neighbouring countries. Maria Sikhomba, a coordinator and a founder of the centre, said Thusanang was established to instruct women in gardening and help poor women with food parcels.
It now has seven serving points in the village where nominated beneficiaries come to receive food parcels and other basic needs.
“The centre used to organise food parcels every month, but due to lack of resources, now they are able to organise distribution only once every two months,” Ms Sikhomba explained.
Though the number of poor women in the area is increasing daily, Thusanang can afford to serve only 750 beneficiaries. The centre also helps the sick and connects them with nearby clinics, and facilitates social grants and birth documents for orphaned children.
“The greatest challenge we are facing in the gardening project is the scarcity of water. Another challenge is lack of seeds for the gardens,” Ms Sikhomba said. There are 170 women in the gardening project.
A beneficiary of the food parcels, Ms Thokwane, said she is very happy that she will be able to eat together with her children and family. “Today is the day of happiness in our home. There is no one working in the family. We struggle every day to get something to eat. The food parcels we have received today will sustain us for some time,” she said.
Another beneficiary, from Zimbabwe, said her husband is a vendor in Tshwane, but since lockdown, they have been struggling. Even spaza shops are no longer giving credit because nobody in the family is working.
They have been going to bed on empty stomachs. She said she is thankful to God for people who have brought them food parcels: “I am happy my children today will eat and run around and be like my children I know.” Fr Patrick Rakeketsi CSS, associate secretary-general of the SACBC, was part of the team of people who donated food parcels.
He encouraged the Mercy Sisters and his fellow Stigmatines, who are all working in the area, to continue a long culture of cooperating to address challenges, and thanked them for their good work in Winterveldt. Fr Rakeketsi praised the partnership of the J&P and United Nations Women for helping the needy.
Fr Sylvester Motlhokoa CSS, a parish priest in the area, closed the event with a thanksgiving prayer.
Commenting on the project, Bishop Victor Phalana, chair of J&P, said the ministry is “a sign that God is here, God is present”.
“It is a privilege for us to serve them, to show them God has not forgotten them. To show them that through us, God is able to extend his hand and touch them and bless them,” said the bishop of Klerksdorp, who as a priest served in Pretoria.
“It is not us blessing them. It is God blessing them through us. That is what motivates us every week to go out to these communities to respond to the cries of the poor, the marginalised, the ‘nobodies’ of this world,” he said.
“We respect their humanity. We respect their dignity. And we treat them with care and with love because we are not coming as people who are better than them. We are their servants,” Bishop Phalana said.