Home Food for Thought It Takes a Village Childcare workers feed thousands in Mzansi communities

Childcare workers feed thousands in Mzansi communities

NACCW initiative provides holistic care model to communities around Kimberley


Children have a right to be children – to play and to dream. They have the right to exist freely. So says Pat Maqina, a technical advisor and senior mentor at the Isibindi place of safety in Kimberley in the Northern Cape.  

As a member of the National Association of Child Care Workers (NACCW)Maqina was at the forefront of the facilitation of the Isibindi place of safety in 2005 in Donkerhoeklocal township.  

The childcare worker says the initiative fosters family bonding, teaches children and youth responsibility, encourages healthy eating habits, and teaches children patience through a series of skills development programs including food gardening. 

Maqina explains that Isibindi creates circles of care for children in need of protection and support. At their core, Isibindi places of safety are community-based care and protection initiatives that have been providing lifelines to South Africa’s orphaned and vulnerable youth. The initiative provides child and youth care services to children and youth in their own homes.  

“We take care of the children, but before we even do that, we would normally profile the areas that social development would say we would like to have an Isibindi in this area.” 

Six garden beds are used to feed children and adult HIV/Aids patients
Six garden beds are used to feed children and adult HIV/Aids patients.

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Developed in 2001, the Isibindi project is the brainchild of the NACCW. Through the initiative, the NGO has helped to alleviate the plights of nearly 400 000 South African children. Maqina says food gardens are at the centre of the holistic care system.   

The Isibindi facility in Kimberley houses a food garden of six vegetable beds growing spinach, onions, carrots, cabbage, peppers and eggplant that are used to feed children and youth in the Donkerhoek community.

“Our food garden is community-based. We plant vegetables and we have a few fruit trees as well. When our crops are ready, we give it to children in need who visit our safe parkWe cook for them during the school holidays or they take it home with them.”   

Maqina explains that the food garden is focused on changing food systems in downtrodden communities. The garden also supplies seedlings to struggling families to start growing their own food.  

“In the households we have what we call the cottage gardens at the back of the yard. The child and youth care workers would then work with the families to help get their home gardens in order,” she further explains.  

The Isibindi place of safety provides holistic models of care to at risk children.
The Isibindi place of safety provides holistic models of care to at risk children.

Drought in the Northern Cape has however had a negative impact on their gardening efforts. “The past year it was not good due to the restrictions, we suffered a lot. Normally the food garden looks beautiful, we even had watermelons and pumpkin over the past years,” Maqina adds. 

Maqina says it was disheartening to watch the environmental challenges negatively affect their efforts. Our food gardens are vital because they provide HIV/Aids patients under our care with healthy nutritious meals. These projects are important so that we know if families have spinach and other vegetables, they are getting nutritious meals. Even if you have your pap or your mqusho, you would have your cabbage and your leafy green vegetables along with it.”  

Maqina and her team hope 2020 will be a fruitful year filled with rain. “We are hoping for more rain because we have a jojo tank where we collect water, we even have sprinklers and we are praying that this year will come with good things. 

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Noluthando Ngcakani
Noluthando Ngcakani
With roots in the Northern Cape, this Kimberley Diamond has had a passion for telling human interest stories since she could speak her first words. A foodie by heart, she began her journalistic career as an intern at the SABC where she discovered her love for telling agricultural, community and nature related stories. Not a stranger to a challenge Ngcakani will go above and beyond to tell your truth.


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