“I enjoy seeing smiles on their faces because of me.”
Loss of source of livelihoods, increased poverty rate, depression, the effect more lingering on children across the globe. The global pandemic has no doubt wrecked havoc in world economies with children more specifically hit hard. 2020 ushered in deeply troubling trying times across the world with its impact more felt in emerging countries.
However, stepping up and joining doctors, medical personnels and the government working tirelessly, giving their all to save lives, help the less privileged and bring a bit of sunshine in the midst of it all is Sandra Tshisa, an ordinary citizen of Khayelitsha, a township in Western Cape, South Africa.
Burdened by the plight of hungry kids around her, she decided out of the little she has to ease their plight, cooking for them, using her none sophisticated two-plate gas stove in her small house. That singular decision would go on to announce her to the world, earning her recognition and emerging Lockdown Heroes winner with a prize of a R15,000 local holiday package, topping hundreds of nominees to clinch the coveted spot.
Recalling how it all started, Sandra Tshisa, who works at Groote Schuur Hospital in the Early Childhood section, said:
“Since I work, I’m not home most of the time, but because of lockdown I was forced to be home and that is when I saw how most families were struggling.
“Every morning I would be outside of my house preparing porridge for my children and I would see children from the area standing outside my gate crying and asking if they can have some porridge as well.”
Soon enough, Sandra began feeding up to 30 kids on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, but the financial burden became more than she could bear as she still had her own family to cater for.
“I thought I was only dealing with a few children but the numbers increased and more children were coming, which meant I had to cook more porridge.”
Determined to not to give up and make living better for others, she spoke to her friend Tanya van Tonder, about her problem;
“She helped from her own pocket but as the numbers grew, we needed more help.
“Even some parents started coming, also asking for food, and I could not turn them away.”
Soon, the movement blew to feeding almost a hundred adults and children three times a week:
“The community really appreciates what I do for them and I also enjoy seeing smiles on their faces because of me,” says Sandra.
Although initially worried about the lockdown protocols such as social distancing, she managed to teach everyone the rules, including giving children extra lessons;
“I also keep them busy with crayons and paper. I give it to them on Monday, then they have ‘homework’ to stay indoors and colour on Tuesday, then they bring it back on Wednesday to get more. On Fridays, I give them two papers.”
Tshisa’s friend Tanya van Tonder, who nominated her for Lockdown Heroes, heard about her efforts and set up a small website at www.give4good.co.za to support her via donations.