Charity helping the needy one bag at a time

The Giving Bag’s founder Paige Cohen, left, with her assistant, Maggie Gondwe. Picture: supplied

The Giving Bag is a Constantia-based non-profit organisation on a mission to provide gift bags of hope to needy women and children in Cape Town.

Founder and British expat Paige Cohen says she always knew she wanted to give back when she traded the bustle of central London for the leafy suburb of Constantia.

“My family and I would come to SA to visit for about a few weeks to a month every year during the summer and just loved it. We have two small babies and wanted a lifestyle change. To come here and be in the sunshine where the kids can have a garden and play outside, run around. We couldn’t ask for a better place to live.”

The concept for the Giving Bag took root when she was decluttering her home and clearing out baby clothes her children had outgrown.

“I thought instead of donating it somewhere why not just give it away myself,” she says.

“I started in September just by putting clothing and toiletries in some reusable bags and backpacks and handing them out to women and children on the streets and then it has just flourished from there.”

The gift bags include clothing, shoes, toiletries, soaps, toothpaste, toothbrushes, hand sanitiser, shampoos, body washes and small tokens of kindness.

“When people think about donating, they always think about clothing, but there is a huge need for stuffed toys, puzzles, books. Some of these children don’t have toys or never owned a stuffed toy, so we always like to include something fun as well,” Ms Cohen says.

In October, the Union of Jewish Women, a non-profit organisation with more than 90 years of experience providing welfare projects across South Africa, took the Giving Bag under its wing.

This opened the Giving Bag to a wider network of organisations and people who need help and gave it the status of a registered non-profit organisation and public benefit organisation, says Ms Cohen, who does collections in person in the southern suburbs.

The Union of Jewish Women’s branch in Sea Point is used as a drop-off hub on the Atlantic seaboard.

Vanessa Arelisky, the project coordinator at the Union of Jewish Women in Sea Point, says: “We do a lot of different things, for women and children. The Giving Bag was another outlet where we could reach this demographic, especially because it is personalised. So she goes out there and she finds the rural areas in need.”

Collections are run on a quarterly basis, and each term, the Giving Bag plans to work with different organisations.

“So for this term we are supporting women’s shelters,” says Ms Cohen. “We go out and give as many bags as we can fill to a specific women’s shelter, but on top of that, the other donations that we receive, we are going out and giving it to informal settlements, women and children that we find on the streets.

“In January, we are raising back-to-school donations for Westlake Primary School. They have about 800 students who come from very disadvantaged backgrounds, and they have sent me their stationery list for the children and their school wish list. So we will be raising donations for them. It includes anything from basic pens and pencils to a globe for their social studies lessons, a skeleton for their biology lesson and other items just to help them maintain the school.”

Visit the Giving Bag on Facebook or Instagram to find out more or to donate.