Challenges faced in the last 12 months have taught us to be flexible and think out of the box. As a result, we are able to do more for the community.
Responding to community needs
Food security has been highlighted as a major issue in South Africa. The communities we work in are no different and as The Topsy Foundation is one of the only non-profit organisations in the area, we continue to supply food parcels to supplement existing vegetables from the food gardens we helped establish in the community. Groceries are bought by Topsy and our staff put them together. We also receive some from one of our partners, Rise Against Hunger. Providing these food parcels not only means that the community has food security, but have also kept them safer as they were less likely to leave their homes every day, putting themselves in harm's way to put food on the table, limiting the chances of contracting the coronavirus at the peak of the pandemic. This is important because Dipaleseng has one of the highest HIV/AIDS rates (31%) in the country, thus more people in the community are at high risk.
One of our beneficiaries who receive the food parcel, Mamokete who is an 80 years old granny and lives in Siyathemba with her four grandchildren and great-grandchild. Mamokete qualified for our Orphaned and Vulnerable Child (OVC) project because she is elderly and heads a household with orphaned children. Topsy has been assisting her with vegetable seeds, rice packs from Rise Against Hunger which she says Topsy is a great help as she has no other source of income either than her old age grant. The rice packs she receives together with vegetables she grows help provide nutritional meals for her family which allows her to save as much as possible. She no longer has to ask for food to feed her grandchildren, now she picks from her garden.
The effects of the pandemic will be with us for a long time to come. As a result, we have incorporated COVID-19 relief into our Holistic Early Childhood Development programme. Increasing our beneficiaries of the Food Security Project, we now feed 7000 individuals, providing families with food parcels, seeds comprising of carrots, onions, spinach, cabbage, tomatoes and beetroot.
The criteria for choosing these families are as follows:
* Child under the age of six (6)
* Single parent
* Foster parent
* Persons living with a disability
* Elderly person
* Or be a Child headed family
The families receiving these food gardens are empowered through training and mentorship provided by a trained and experienced Topsy staff member.
Many children between the ages of 0-6 years old were affected when the lockdown regulations led to the closure of Early Childhood Development (ECD) centres to prevent the spread of the virus. The result of this means that the children in our community who are already disadvantage due to socio-economic issues in their communities would fall behind in their physical, emotional, cognitive and social development. Bringing early learning and stimulation to the home was one of the ways to mitigate. We have identified 900 of the most vulnerable children and provided food parcels and ECD resources which include books, Duplo Lego Blocks with a parental guide and a handout with stimulation ideas.
Now that children are attending ECD centres under lockdown level 2, we have found that a high number of them are falling behind. To help children catch up, we have provided ECD Practitioners with an enrichment training course. The course adds to their existing qualification, equipping the practitioner with more tools and activities to make learning more fun and exciting for the children. The children will learn quicker and retain information longer.
Parents are provided with support in the form of small workshops to assist them with the ECD resource kits and general parental stress they may have been experiencing. Other interventions include the provision of hand sanitisers, masks, other essential sanitary products and teaching on the prevention of the coronavirus.
The past year has shown us that together we can do more. That is the spirit that has got us through the challenges we faced.
Mamokete receiving food parcel
Practitioners attending enrichment training