Gardening project helps give food security to refugees

It began as an act of love and kindness toward those who had less. Three decades later it has grown into an organisation that is still changing the lives of mostly migrants and refugees through education and providing food security

Volunteer Ruth Makamo harvesting vegetables for the gardening project in one of the NOSA Early Learning Centre gardens. Supplied: Food For Mzansi

Volunteer Ruth Makamo harvesting vegetables for the gardening project in one of the NOSA Early Learning Centre gardens in Gauteng. Supplied: Food For Mzansi

It began as an act of love and kindness toward those who had less. Three decades later it has grown into an organisation that is still changing the lives of mostly migrants and refugees, through a gardening project that is providing education and food security. 

Mapula Joyce Morudi, who lives in Winterveld, a small town northwest of Pretoria, is making a difference, albeit on a smaller scale. She assists in the upliftment of hundreds of children and families at the NOSA Early Learning Centre.  

Morudi moved to Winterveld nearly 30 years ago and soon noticed many children “just roaming about”. There were no crèches in the area and she decided to create a safe haven for them. She wanted to create a place for them to be in all day where they could be just regular, happy kids. 

“When I saw these children just roaming about I said, ‘This can’t be right. I have to do something’. I have always been passionate about education and just seeing children have the same opportunities as every other child.” 

Food and books grow little minds

Her response was to found NOSA Early Learning Centre, a community organisation that strives to improve children’s lives and grow their minds by instilling excellent reading habits at a young age. It also recognises that food is necessary for this to occur. 

Mapula Joyce Morudi, founder of the NOSA Early Learning Centre. Photo: Supplied/Food For Mzansi

One of the primary objectives of this nonprofit organisation is to promote social justice and equality via basic education and access to nutritional food. It is dedicated to changing the reading culture in their community in order to improve the lives of children and parents. 

“When I started in 1993, it was really very horrible. Everything had to be paid for out of my own cash, but I persisted because I had a vision for a better Winterveld. Kgotlelo e tlesa Katleho is a Sotho adage that essentially states that sacrifice leads to success.” 

After over three decades, NOSA has reached an untold number of children and families. This year alone, NOSA has supported 800 households in Winterveld. 

NOSA’s volunteers come from a variety of backgrounds, and they are leading the reading revolution with their enthusiasm, hard work and devotion to their community. They tirelessly participate in the gardening work and also source food donations for the people of Winterveld. 

The majority of people served by NOSA are orphans or come from single-parent households. Others are not officially recognised because their parents are refugees, migrants or unemployed. Several have been refused admittance to local government schools due to a lack of birth certificates or identity credentials, says Morudi.

“It wasn’t easy; I started with nothing and a community of parents who couldn’t even contribute to buying mealie meal for the children to eat while they were at the centre.”

Mapula Joyce Morudi, founder of the NOSA Early Learning Centre

Morudi says that the classrooms are largely converted car garages, with a small playground, sports yard and three vegetable patch gardens. 

The impact of changed lives 

The gardens are a particular point of pride, with NOSA able to help community members to also establish backyard gardens. The center is built on a stand owned by Morudi’s parents.

“These gardens and the centre garden has made a big impact for the community. Winterveld has a high rate of unemployment and a lot of refugees who are often ravaged by hunger. Now people are able to eat and also sell these home grown vegetables for money,” she says. 

“Last year we worked very hard. It was a time when Covid-19 gave us uncertainty, however, we pushed and managed not only to provide some seedlings for them to grow, but we distributed over 700 food parcels, all worth R3 000 each.” 

The institution does not only make an impact on the most urgent, short-term needs of the community. It has produced some extraordinary children and provided a haven for people who have been displaced.

“I am always overjoyed when I run into one of my grown-up children and they tell me, ‘I am a nurse; I am an engineer.’ It demonstrates to me the importance of the centre.” 

She recalls that earlier this month one of the kids came to the centre and presented a poem in her honor. “She called me ‘Mother’, embraced me and thanked me for being there when she was a youngster. It was a really emotional experience for me. I sobbed, I was in tears of joy.” 

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