A township-based NPO is spreading peace and hope through its empowerment programmes, food garden and soup kitchen, which plays a critical role in addressing hunger in its community.
Residents of Mfuleni township in the Western Cape have seen a reduction in crime, thanks to Women of Peace’s food security and organic vegetable production project.
The non-profit organisation (NPO) also contributes to community development through skills training for women and supports unemployed youth and school children.
Women of Peace’s Garden Co-ordinator Zoleka Gomo (45) said in the past, crime and substance abuse was rife in the area, with even its own community centre being vandalised on several occasions.
“We decided to start a soup kitchen to feed the community and saw an end to the burglaries because, in most cases, crime is borne of poverty,” she said.
The soup kitchen serves children from the community who benefit from the NPO’s after-care programme, youth who participate in its skills training programme and poor families in the community.
Gomo’s food garden supplies the produce needed to sustain the soup kitchen. Organic spinach, cabbage, carrots, onions and beetroot are produced on a 0.020 hectare patch of land and, according to Gomo, 95 people are fed each day.
The garden has flourished with a little help from the Western Cape Department of Agriculture, which donated seeds, shade nets and an irrigation system that has helped them during times of drought.
The NPO’s community upliftment programmes include arts and crafts, embroidery, ballroom and Latin dancing, reading and homework study areas, chess and sports, explained Gomo.
“The skills development programmes have helped some of the youth find jobs and also helps keep them occupied and away from social ills,” she said.
She added that at any given time, 20 to 30 people take part in skills training courses and, they are fed by the soup kitchen.
Women of Peace was started in Johannesburg in 1976 with the aim of assisting the disadvantaged, Gomo said.
Gomo was this year honoured at the Female Entrepreneur Awards hosted by the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, winning the Best Subsistence Producer prize.