South Africa

Sustainable ’Angel Network Villages’ project pushing to give SA’s needy a ’hand up’

Cape Town – The Angel Network has already assisted 200 000 people in need in all nine provinces – but it intends to increase its reach more significantly through its #ConnectingKindness campaign, aiming to raise a ’’staggering’’ amount of money due to poverty-alleviating measures never being more urgent.

Sustainability and upliftment is the main focus through all of the projects it runs and during the Covid-19 pandemic, helping South Africans live better lives has been at the forefront.

Capetonian Joanie Fredericks is one of the ’’true warriors’’ the network supports. The entrepreneur and social activist heads up the Tafelsig/Mitchells Plain CAN (Community Action Network), where she runs 22 soup kitchens and, among other projects, the Garden in a Box.

She has sung the praises of The Angel Network Western Cape, which has a national branch spread across all provinces, on social media, saying: ’’The Angel Network Western Cape has done the most incredible things in the history of Covid-19 in South Africa. Last week, they managed to get us, the Tafelsig Mitchells Plain CAN, acknowledged as front-line workers.

’’After 12 months we are finally front-line workers! And as such, we have been given the front-line tools of the trade: proper face masks – 3-ply loop; face shields; sanitiser; sanitiser foot pedal dispensers, plus spray bottles.

’’It is time that the world knows how much you have been doing for the people of this country for the past 12 months straight. Without discrimination and the utmost compassion for humanity, you the angels have served the community night and day... 24 hours a day, 7 days a week... And you continue doing so!’’

The social media-driven NPO, since its inception in November 2015, ’’offers help where help is needed by giving a hand up as opposed to a handout’’, and believes food security, education and sustainable living will pave the way to future self-sufficiency.

More than 400 feeding schemes benefited from its PPE distribution – which was orchestrated in collaboration with Masks for Medics (having to motivate what qualified the feeding scheme workers as unofficial ’’front-line workers’’) and led to a subsequent multimillion-rand donation from the Scheinberg Relief Fund – but now has set the bar higher with its ’’Angel Villages’’ project.

“We aim to create sustainable ’Angel Villages’ with running water, solar geysers, food gardens and an improved standard of living as well as focusing on education and creating a capital fund from which to gift bursaries to worthy students,’’ The Angel Network Western Cape executive member Melanie Levy told IOL on Tuesday.

From April 18-20, The Angel Network will be hosting a 48-hour virtual fund-raiser, through Charidy, an international crowdfunding platform, which allows it to reach donors and collect funds from all over the world in a short period of time.

Fredericks is just one example of what can be achieved at grassroots level, where the necessary funding can help save and transform lives, and serve as inspiration.

Terri Fittinghoff Marks, who is also on the executive of The Angel Network Western Cape, said: ’’We met Joanie at the beginning of the lockdown when we were looking to help various soup kitchens and vulnerable areas. I’ve not met a more energised, dynamic warrior than Joanie for what she believes in. We took her under our wing and donated to her every month.

“In the beginning, we were supplying masks and sanitiser where we could, but as lockdown continued, unemployment grew and queues got longer, we realised that we had to prioritise to keep the pots full so people would not starve. So, unfortunately, we could not provide PPE as we would have liked.

’’To me, staff in the feeding schemes and kitchens are front-line workers. We have got to protect them. Without them people would be starving and that qualifies them as front-line workers as they are doing vital work keeping kids fed, the elderly and whomever they could.’’

Around 2 000 kitchen staff received PPE, with the network being able to secure two sanitiser stands per kitchen, with pedals, as well as four 5-litre sanitisers, and enough masks and shields for all the kitchen staff.

’’The response has been so emotional from everyone. It was a two-month allocation and we are working on a further appeal after this,’’ said Fittinghoff Marks.

“The Angel Network connects kindness. Sometimes it’s when there are fires in the townships, it’s not always money-related. Sometimes we ask for utensils, food, blankets and clothing, and what have you.

’’So there are all kinds of ways we network with people. We have students that come to us who live in shacks. They got amazing results, got into university and can’t afford to go. We are very involved in tertiary education because for us that is the future. If we can’t give people opportunities to uplift their lives, the cycle is never going to end.

’’The network has vegetable gardens running in Gugulethu, Kraaifontein, Fisantekraal and other areas. We will be funding and growing vegetable gardens and upskilling people to farm, where they can sell what they don’t need. There is the solar geyser project where we are trying to bring hot water into the townships and ensure clean toilets.

’’This coming weekend because we are concerned about funding – there is a lot of donor fatigue – as we are not seeing the amount coming in that we did last year, we are holding a massive charity drive. Whatever we raise gets doubled or raised by matches. We’ve approached overseas expats, as many people as we can, so we will have a proper telethon going on for 48 hours on Sunday and Monday.

’’The more we get, the more we can help and for longer. It’s been a very trying year for everyone and it’s been a very emotional journey for The Angel Network because we have come to meet the most incredible people out there.

’’We have found these street champions who, tirelessly day after day at whatever time, are cooking and feeding; they are just phenomenal human beings. They push us to push; they are our inspiration.’’

IOL

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