Food is our Common Ground.
A Universal Experience ~James Beard
The meals that Oliver Dason started a few years back, are generously continued by his family’s church, Oak Bay United in Victoria, Canada. At the end of every term of which there are 4 a year here in South Africa, the children anticipate a delicious and hearty meal.
I go and do all the shopping which is quite a task for the 1,040 student body that continues to grow every year! Presently we purchase 80 kgs rice and 100 kgs ground beef plus 60 kgs frozen vegetables, 12 pockets of butternut squash, potatoes, onions, lots of spices…fruit juice, a fruit for 2 lunches and an Easter egg at Easter time and a chocolate bar for Christmas time.
The kitchen aunties start peeling vegetables the day before so they can make an early start on lunch day. Teachers from the nutrition committee also don their aprons and help with the cooking which is done in 100 litre pots on gas burners.
Tables are set up outside and the students, from youngest to oldest, start lining up and filing past for their hearty plate of food and juice. Then they go and sit under the trees to eat with big smiles on their faces!
"I had not heard about Ukulapha until I was in Grade 9, when I started to look for a topic for my Personal Project for school. Ukulapha was a good choice.
I learnt about Carolyn and Ukulapha from our neighbour and attended a talk by Carolyn. The presentation was about Ukulapha and the Slangspruit community, which included Slangspruit Primary School. In the power point presentation, Carolyn showed how much food the government in one month provided for the students for lunch. Carolyn also showed the children laughing, playing and studying. I was shocked to hear that most of the children had only one meal a day and was even more shocked when I realized that their one meal at school was very small. What I saw and learnt from the presentation disturbed me. I wanted to help the children be healthier so I decided to give them nutritious meals and to pursue this as my personal project at school. I would do this by raising funds for the meal program at Slangspruit School.
I have raised funds for Ukulapha in many ways. I did the newspaper route in my neighbourhood for several months, I have given a presentation at my church, Oak Bay United Church, to explain my work to the church congregation, I was helped by the Vacation Bible School in 2012 to raise funds at a car wash, I was also helped by the Sunday School children at church to sell Valentine’s Day goody bags, I willingly donated all my birthday money in 2011, and I have also collected, and continue to collect, bottles for the bottle depot.
Last 2 years, I persuaded my parents to host a total of 6 Japanese students so that I could donate the money from the billeting to Slangspruit School. I had a deal with my parents, which was, that I would give up my room and interact with the guests and in turn I would get the money.
I gave a mini clarinet concert at church to raise funds for Ukulapha. I played solos and duets with my clarinet teacher, Larry De La Haye and I raised more than $700.00 from this event. and in 2012, I won a Glenlyon Norfolk School community service award of $200.00 for Ukulapha. The money was donated towards the meal program.
So far, I have raised $3000.00 and the money was used for two Christmas meals and two Easter meals, and one meal was given on my birthday. Carolyn tells me what she purchases for the meals and she sends me photos and video clips of the excited children lining up and eating their meals.
Two years ago, I obtained permission for Carolyn to speak to the Glenlyon Norfolk Senior School at assembly. Carolyn with her usual great Power Point presentation, introduced Ukulapha and Slangspruit to the whole Senior School. In September and October 2013, Carolyn spoke to the Glenlyon Norfolk Junior, Middle and Senior School. It was hard work organizing this but Carolyn has an important message, and I want as many people as possible to hear it."
When Oliver headed out East to university, his family’s church, the Oak Bay United, took over sponsoring the special meals, and now his work continues!
WATCH OLIVER'S SPECIAL MEAL AT SLANSPRUIT PRIMARY SCHOOL
"In August 2014, I spent 4 days at Slangspruit Primary School to meet and interact with the students to experience first hand the school life, and to serve a special meal. Serving this special meal had been one of my dreams since the beginning of this project in 2010. Carolyn had sent me pictures and video clips of the meals and the students, but I wanted to actually be in the classrooms, and get involved in the preparation, cooking and serving of the meals. I did get this opportunity and I served a special nutritious meal that Oak Bay United Church and I had raised funds for.
When I arrived at the school, the teachers and students welcomed me warmly. The students had prepared a surprise welcoming assembly for me where they sang joyful songs and danced. Their dancing was very impressive and their singing was beautiful. It was a very jovial atmosphere. I was even more excited to be a part of their community as I now felt so welcome and I knew the next 4 days were going to be a great experience.
During my time at the school, I helped in both the classrooms and the computer room. I was invited to sit in during the student’s English classes and experience how the students studied. I was very impressed at both their written English and oral skills. There was lots of excitement because I was there, but they soon got down to reading and writing and were very focused. I also had the opportunity to read what the students wrote. The students were asked to write about themselves and so I was able to get to know more about them when I read each individuals work. The teachers also asked me to write comments to help the students improve, which I did. The students try so hard to do well, so they can have a better future.
One thing I did notice was that their study environment wasn’t very comfortable. The classrooms were much too hot, students had to share desks and there were not enough textbooks for everyone. I hope this is something that can be fixed in the future. The students need these things to make the learning environment more enjoyable, to benefit their needs.
The computer room at SPS is a small room with around 16 computers that are shared by all the students. When I helped in the computer room, I could see the great joy expressed on the students faces when they typed out sentences to improve their typing skills. I helped in the computer with 2 others, Peekay and Theo, and really enjoyed working with both of them. Overall, it was really great to help in the computer room and in the classrooms and to see first hand how the students studied.
Buying, preparing and serving the special meal was my favorite part of my time at SPS. This meal was provided by Oak Bay United Church with funds raised by the church and me. I truly got to experience the excitement of the special meal at the school. The day before the meal, Carolyn and I went to buy all the ingredients needed for the massive meal that would feed 960 students. The items included ground beef, butternut, a variety of vegetables, rice, juice and a special chocolate ‘kit kat’ bar for each student. I was amazed at the amount of food we bought, as we had 4 shopping carts filled to the brim.
In the morning, for the meal, all the teachers and helpers came in to start its preparation. They worked tirelessly, with Mr. Msomi supervising, to make the meal the best they could. I was also able to help prepare the meal by stirring huge pots of meat and rice and cutting butternut, until I accidentally cut my finger. Stirring the pots was hard work. Every now and then I could see the excited faces of the kids outside the door just waiting eagerly for the food to be ready. The students were also dancing to try and pass the time and quell their hunger. They were thrilled.
When we served the meal, all the students were organized into grades and the youngest ate first. Everyone came up with a bowl and a cup to receive their food and juice. I helped serve the butternut and the kit kat bars. It was really hard for me to give the same servings to all the kids as I knew they were all hungry and wanted to eat. It was also hard to see that the students could not have seconds, as there was only just enough food for the 960 students.
OBUC now raises funds for the children at SPS. 4 meals a year are served, an Easter Meal, a Celebration Meal, an Ubangane (Friendship) Meal and a Christmas Meal. From next year on, there will be one extra meal i.e. a 5th meal which I will provide to celebrate my birthday. OBUC and I are also working together to provide an education scholarship to a top student, Asanda, to study at Alexandra High School.
I hope more friends will donate towards providing more special nutritious meals for the children at Slangspruit Primary School. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to visit SPS and look forward to spending more time at the school the next time I visit."
Through our ongoing partnership with Oak Bay United Church in Victoria, Canada, Ukulapha is able to provide a nutrition-laden lunch for all 1050 students currently attending Slangspruit Primary School at the end of every term.
Below are a few photos of the nutritious and delicious lunch prepared by the aunties for the end of term feast before the holidays just this past July !