POP-ping olives helps break path of poverty

It’s good to know that every time I pop a delectable hand-picked calamata-style olive into my mouth, I’m helping a rural child break out of the Path of Poverty (POP) through schooling, healthy food, exercise and much more.

On Tuesday October 11, I joined a group of Constantia supporters of the Goedgedacht Trust who drove 87km to the spring open day on their beautiful 1 704 Cape Dutch farm on the slopes of the Kasteelberg near Riebeek Kasteel.

We were there to learn more about their six POP centres on two farms and six villages where last year the staff interacted directly with 4 526 mothers with babies, pre-schoolers, primary school children, teenagers and young adults and interacted indirectly with a further 3 257 people in the communities in which they work .

I was delighted to visit a classroom where dozens of well-fed, well-clothed happy six-year-olds were using colourful bottle tops to learn the basics of arithmetic and also to encounter a baby unit.

This was introduced seven years ago to help poor mothers who were struggling to feed and nurture their offspring. The human brain develops 80 to 90% during the first three years of life so the First Thousand Days’ learning programme is taken seriously. If the staff can get that right, the chances of the baby doing well in life increases exponentially.

Sadly there are too many children in desperately poor rural areas who are beyond the reach of their help. Like Simone X, a school-going teenager whose life on a struggling tenant wheat farm is the subject of a case study by a staff member.

We saw photos of the smoke-blackened interior of the dilapidated 4 x 4 tin shack in which she sleeps on the floor with 10 people, including two men who are not related to her. Adding to her miserable existence without stimulation of any kind is the fact that her first and only meal in the day is at 5pm.

Financing Goedgedacht’s commendable endeavours is costly – nearly R16 million in the 2015-2016 year. That’s where the olives come in. The farm is winning international awards for its olive oil, available locally along with its olive products and the old farmhouse brings in revenue as an ideal conference or wedding venue. But ever more donors are required to meet the shortfall between expenses and income to help children out of the Path of Poverty.

Santa’s story

Finally I have seen Aviva Pelham’s moving, beautifully told and sung one-woman play Santa’s Story – about her mother’s remarkable journey from Hitler’s Germany to Spain, France and finally Africa. I caught it at The Theatre on the Bay for its short season from October 10 to 15.

Santa is no longer alive to come on stage at the end of the show to sing with Aviva. However, we had the next best thing – a video enactment of that finale with Santa, aged 89, giving it her all.

What a remarkable personality. Tough, courageous and full of spirit, exemplified by her willingness to accept by letter a proposal of marriage from a Rhodesian, (not yet Zimbabwian) she had never set eyes on and only knew from his letters that he was short in stature and kind.

I met both Aviva’s smiling friendly parents briefly when they came to see her star in a Capab Opera production.

I can’t recall what it was but I know it was not her much awaited singing of the challenging role of Violetta in La Traviata which was being staged in honour of the birthday of the Italian director Gregorio Fiasconaro.

Perhaps all the pre-publicity put additional stress on Aviva because she became too sick to perform before all the first night guests attending the gala opening. Her understudy stepped in, performed well and enjoyed the glamorous night that she was denied.

However, Aviva has enjoyed umpteen opening nights with Santa’s Story – in London, Helsinki and in New York as part of the First International Folksbiene Yiddish Festival in 2015. In November she will be touring to Melbourne and Sydney with Santa’s Story, which Aviva’s married daughter, Gaby Sulcas Nudelman, was responsible for the final manuscript and editing. It’s truly a family piece.

Spelling matters

How many times have I run, walked and cycled down Spaarman Avenue without making the connection that this avenue off Brommersvlei Road in Constantia was named after the famous Swedish naturalist whose name correctly spelt is Sparrman. That is with two R’s rather than two A’s.

Anders Sparrman who loved birds, bees and butterflies and was also a medical doctor to the very poor, was the extraordinary character who in the second half of the 18th century became the last and youngest disciple of Carl Linnaeus, creator of the system of classification of plants and animals used today.

A biographical novel from Tokai library The journey of Anders Sparrman by Per Wastberg, describes how Sparrman sailed to China at 17, joined Captain Cook on his second voyage to Antarctica and Tahiti and made a pioneering journey on foot into the interior of South Africa.

It was here, in our country, that he witnessed the terrible cruelties of slavery, which made him a staunch abolitionist forever more.

The book tenderly describes Sparrman’s late flowering passion for an unspoilt Swedish seamstress that overtook his life.

Charlotta Hedvig Fries, whom he called Lotta, was 30 years his junior but loved him dearly and rewarded him with a daughter who was first named Fries, since her parents were not married, but after Anders acknowledged her in writing as his daughter she was called Carolina Charlotta Sparrman.

Where’s Oupa?

Oupa started walking 5km a day when he was 60. Now he’s 95 and we have no idea where he is.

fionachisholm@iafrica.com