While sitting around a dinner table, a family with a heart for their community realised that their simple gesture of goodwill could have a great impact on the lives of learners at more than 13 farm schools in the Western Cape.
For some, a toothbrush, a tube of toothpaste or packet of rice might seem like a silly gift to give, but for many of the schoolchildren of Bonnievale in the Western Cape it is a much needed gift.
Once a year, just before the winter school holidays starts leading actuarial recruitment firm South African Actuaries abroad (SA3) selflessly donates everyday essentials to learners from farm schools in and around Bonnievale.
The initiative, called the “Food Parcel Project”, has been running for 11 years and is responsible for the happy hearts of 1200 primary school children and toddlers in Early Childhood Development Centres (ECD’s).
Owner and director of SA3 Wilhelm de Wet says the initiative was birthed in the comfort of his home while having dinner with his family. “As Christians we believe that we are placed on this earth to be a blessing to others. We were aware of the children’s needs in Bonnievale and wanted to help.”
De Wet says a majority of the learners’ nutrition and personal hygiene are neglected. “We started off small with one school with 50 learners, but realised that our impact could be bigger,” De Wet says.
“Giving is always better than receiving and with the parcels, the kids become aware of the fact that they matter and that someone else is thinking of them.”
Every year, they gather at the Dutch Reformed Church in Bonnievale where they form a long human line to pack the bags. “We pack the bags with some assistance from the church congregants and students from Bonnievale High School,” De wet says.
The parcels feature a tube of toothpaste, a toothbrush, soap, candles, matches, a facecloth, a packet of rice, two packets of soup, cooldrink, chips, sweets and a toy.
The much-anticipated day for the little ones includes a warm bowl of hearty soup to keep them warm and an energetic storytelling session. De Wet, who often leads these sessions, share with the children stories from the bible.
To date, SA3 has donated more than 12 000 parcels. De Wet says teachers have informed them that it is the one day in the year that the schoolchildren look forward to the most. “They’ve told us that it is the one day that none of the children miss school,” he laughs.
Last year, De Wet says, they noticed that many of the schools didn’t have shade for the children to relax or play under during lunch breaks. Therefore, in addition to the food parcels, they have planted trees at each school and plan to do so every year.
Lidelle Rheeders, De Wet’s personal assistant and organiser of the Food Parcel Project, says the project has had a tangible effect on the kids. “ For some of these kids the parcel is the only gift they ever get from anyone. You can see the children’s face lit up when we give them the parcels.”
“Giving is always better than receiving and with the parcels the kids become aware of the fact that they matter and that someone else is thinking of them.”