Rotaract members make a difference

Steenberg Rotaract members, from left, Adrian Ndayambaje, Topollo Mokhathi, Chadwin Petersen, Michael Holmes and Ricky Alderton.

Young Steenberg Rotarians ran a soup kitchen and gave meals to about
100 people in Cavalla Dorp, an informal settlement in the area, on Sunday.

Steenberg Rotaract, whose parent club is Constantia Rotary, was founded in 2018. It has grown from seven to 18 members and raises awareness among the youth about poverty, gang violence, environmental sustainability, youth unemployment and other social issues in the Steenberg, Wynberg, Ottery and Retreat areas.

Rotaract is Rotary International’s service organisation for 18-to-30-year-olds.

Constantia Rotary mentors, guides and donates to the young Steenberg Rotaract leaders.

A woman who did not want to be named was one of those who were given soup, bread and chicken briyani on Sunday. Her 12-year-old son received the same meal, as well as a lollipop and a packet of chips from the club.

“I’ve been doing piece jobs for the longest time,” she said. “I usually go around and clean people’s windows and houses here in Steenberg and Tokai but no one wanted us to come in with the virus.

“I only have Grade 10 because I dropped out in Grade 11 after I fell pregnant.”

She added: “The unemployment in this country is messed up; there’s not enough jobs for everyone. It’s even worse now with all the companies closing, people losing their jobs, people not getting the piece jobs because of the virus. Christmas is coming, we’re going to be hungry on Christmas.”

The woman said she relied on a social grant to make ends meet.

“I’ve had to find myself digging in the white people’s bins again to feed my child. I’m a single mother and I’m poor. I’ve been living here for 18 years, and this has been the worst, these past months have been very heavy.

“I’m thankful for this food, at least I have a meal today.”

Topollo Mokhathi, president of Steenberg Rotaract, said he was glad lockdown had been eased enough for the club to do community outreach work again.

The 27-year-old from Ottery is a final year theology student at Helderberg College in Somerset West.

“Rotaract represents young people who are interested in their communities and are going out there to better them,” he said.

Despitethelockdown,theclub organised 10 wheelchairs for the needy two months ago and donated food parcels to about 100 children at Heathfield High School a month ago.

“Sustainability has been a huge problem during this time,” Mr Mokhathi said. “People have been struggling to put food on their tables because of the loss of jobs. The closing of schools also meant that feeding schemes had to close.

“I live in this community, and I was shocked; I didn’t even know that this informal settlement existed. As soon as Ramaphosa said he’s opening up, we said let’s do it, these people are right next to us, let’s help them.”

Rotaract allowed him to see how he could help on a small scale, but also have a global effect, he said.

“When I first joined Rotary, I had this idea of it being a load of old white guys with the Father Christmas beard, but I’m seeing that Rotaract is introducing diversity, which I think gives a true taste of what Rotary is about, everyone helping people.” he said.

“Belville Rotaract has a female black president, and Blouberg and Hout Bay Rotaract have young black presidents so the demographic is shaping according to the area. There are also some black councillors in the Rotary Club, which is very progressive to see. We are all making a difference.”