PfP principal goes above and beyond to ensure learners don’t go hungry

The national lockdown has left many of the most vulnerable without food. The learners and families of Blouvlei LSEN (Learners with Special Educational Needs) School in Retreat, Cape Town, have not been spared this struggle.

But the love and leadership of Principal Cordelia Romes Davids, coupled with the generosity of NPOs and businesses, has ensured that her learners’ stomachs – and hearts – are full.

Symphonia for South Africa first became aware of the plight of Blouvlei LSEN’s learners when Davids voiced her concerns via Symphonia for SA’s Food 4 Children WCape WhatsApp group.

It was mid-April, two weeks after the lockdown started, and no plans were in place to feed the Blouvlei special needs learners who depend on the National School Nutrition Programme for their daily sustenance.

On the WhatsApp group, Davids outlined the particular difficulties of sourcing food parcels for her particularly vulnerable learners.

‘’We serve 183 learners with severe intellectual disabilities, and they live in areas that cover a 40km radius. Thus, cooking for and feeding our learners is difficult. There is the danger that our learners could get lost coming to the school to collect food. Right now, a learner with severe intellectual disabilities is missing in Mitchells Plain because of this. Distributing food hampers to their homes would simplify the matter,’’ she noted.

In her appeal for assistance, David said:

‘’We are [putting together] food hampers and will maybe manage 50 with our available funds. I’m trying to get donors, friends and family to sponsor a food hamper for each family.

We may not solve every problem, but making a huge difference is possible.’’

A solution in sight

A few days later, Davids’ efforts to attract donations of food finally paid off.

On 17 April 2020, the first batch of food parcels, each of which would feed their immediate family for a week, was delivered to the Blouvlei LSEN learners. On the day, everyone involved co-operated to ensure the distribution went smoothly.

‘’We had eight different vehicles covering eight different routes. Each had a driver, a parcel man and a photographer. Some of the staff and parents volunteered to distribute the food parcels,’’ Davids explained.

She added: ‘’We were so in awe of the gratitude and honesty [shown] by our people. Some of the recipients’ names were repeated on different lists, but they told us that they had already received a parcel. It’s amazing.’’

Towards the end of May, more food parcels were distributed to these learners, ensuring they wouldn’t go hungry for another week.

‘’Included in these parcels were curriculum activity packs, visual exercise cues, bread sponsored by the staff and fresh apples from Capespan,’’ Davids said.

She also explained that her learners yearned to be back at school.

‘’They miss school so much. Four learners actually needed medical intervention. These are very anxious moments, but just seeing a teacher’s or driver’s face adds value to their day,’’ she said.

She thanked Symphonia for SA, the Peninsula School Feeding Association, Breadline Africa, Capespan, St Martin’s Church in Bergvliet, Eternal Flame of Hope Ministries and several anonymous donors for funding and logistical support that made the provision of food possible.

Gifts from Capespan – a connection made through Symphonia for SA

When Capespan’s Corporate Social Responsibility Manager, and PfP business leader, Ansonette van der Merwe, learnt of Symphonia for SA’s drive to feed hungry children, she contacted the Louise van Rhyn, who leads the initiative.

Van der Merwe said: ‘’Louise told me about the needs of the learners at Blouvlei. That’s how we came to donate R10,000 towards food and 10 boxes of fresh apples to Blouvlei.

 ‘’Capespan, a fresh fruit supply business, focusses on food production regions, but in light of COVID-19, we made the decision to try to directly support communities.

To sustain a viable business, most of our fresh fruit is sold and exported, but when it becomes available to feed communities, we do as much as possible to get it into their hands.

I was ‘tickled pink’ to be able to help the Blouvlei learners who have special needs.’’

30 November -1, 00:00