Zimbabwe, like many African countries, has its fair share of challenges, not least of which is the effect of unpredictable rainfall patterns and successive droughts on agricultural production and subsistence farming. The consequent food scarcity causes malnutrition in local children and is linked to the disturbingly high infant mortality rate.
The Malilangwe Child Supplementary Feeding Scheme was set up in response to the dire need to provide these children with a proper meal each day. In association with the national government of Zimbabwe and, following guidelines put in place by the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), Singita set about establishing a feeding programme on the outskirts of the Malilangwe Wildlife Reserve, where Singita Pamushana Lodge is situated. As with many such initiatives, its success is to a large extent dependant on the involvement and support of local community members.
One such community member is Mrs Ettah Mhango. Not only does she raise her own two children, she also takes care of six of her nephews and nieces. On top of this, she is a key member of the Supplementary Feeding Scheme team, and has been since its inception in 2003. As the manager and storekeeper of one of the scheme’s 436 feeding points, it is her responsibility to ensure that regular deliveries of the blend are received and securely stored, that there is enough porridge to feed the 34 small children in her care, that the food is well prepared and the correct portions are adhered to each day.
When asked about the value of the programme she was heartfelt in her reply: “The Malilangwe Child Supplementary Feeding Programme is the backbone of the community and, if it stops functioning, our children will die”. She also provided the insight that, as the programme also operated at the local primary school, good school attendance was being encouraged.
In total, 19 000 children on the outskirts of the reserve receive such a meal each school day. This would not be possible without the committed involvement of local people, largely women, who volunteer their time and effort to partner with this programme. These amazing people ensure that the children of the village begin each day on a sound and healthy note.
You can read more about how Singita gives back on our website or browse our previous Community Development posts on the blog.
One of the most heart-warming ways that Singita contributes to the upliftment of our local communities is by improving the lives of the children who live in them. One such example is the story of Victor Ubisi who, in his own time and with the tremendous generosity of Singita guests, has created a communal vegetable garden that helps to feed the little learners and benefits the families living in Justicia village neighbouring Singita Sabi Sand. He is an inspiration to Singita’s team at Ebony and Boulders Lodges and a symbol of the value of hard work to the smiling faces at the school.
The Happy Homes Pre-School in the village community of Justicia on the outskirts of the Singita Sabi Sand is now even more of a happy home for the children who visit it every day. And it is all thanks to the generous and selfless act of a wonderful man.
The school fills a desperate need to provide essential early childhood education to many of the village’s youngsters. While filling young minds with information was a challenge readily met, ensuring that the children received a decent meal every day was another challenge all together. Despite the best efforts of the teaching staff, the children were often hungry and easily distracted, which made learning very difficult and it was clear that something had to be done.
The decision was made to start a feeding programme and was generously supported by Deborah Terhune, a former guest and foundation director for Growing Up Africa, which is a charitable organisation that focuses on enriching the early education of children across the continent. Mr Victor Ubisi, a night porter at Singita Sabi Sand, was tasked with the job and worked tirelessly in his own time to create an edible garden that provides food for the school. In addition, any surplus crops are sold to the village community or to the Singita lodges for use in the kitchen. This revenue is further used to fund various school projects and has also allowed Victor to establish a small business of his own. He passes on his skills as a gardener to the children who are now actively involved in the planting, maintenance and harvesting of the vegetables.
Victor is so passionate about being a positive and constructive influence in his community that he recently joined forces with Deborah’s team and a group of Cornell University graduates to assist in the building of a school in Johannesburg. He took three weeks unpaid leave to achieve this goal and has brought many a learning back to his village of Justicia.
The challenges faced by the Happy Homes Pre-School are representative of those in rural communities throughout Africa, as is the success of implementing such a simple yet practical solution. What began as a heart-breaking problem has become a shining example of what hard work and compassion can achieve, while enriching Victor’s life and those of the children that he helps to feed.
Find out more about Singita’s community projects here or learn about Joyful Nghala, a young woman who is building the foundation of her own bright future as one of the star pupils at the Singita School of Cooking.