It’s tough growing up in Sir Lowry’s Pass Village where poverty is widespread, and little tummies often go empty, when they need to be full to enable the children to learn.
But there are angels who make a superhuman effort to bridge that food gap every day of their lives, and what a difference they do make.
Every weekday morning, Pearl Streyders rises at 4am to commence the process of feeding between 250 and 300 children from her community a nourishing breakfast before they head off to school.
“I get up at four and I prepare the pots to put the water on for the pap. The ladies (who help Pearl each day) come in at five, and the high school kids come in at six o’clock and they have their breakfast. I give them vitamins afterwards, and if there is enough bread, they get food for school too,” Pearl says. “At half past six, the primary school children come in for their breakfast, and they are here until quarter to eight.”
When Bolander visited at 9am last Monday with members of the Somerset West Rotary Club, the pre-schoolers had just arrived, and that Pearl is loved unreservedly is self-evident, as the children crowd around her for a hug, before settling down in the al-fresco dining area to wait for their breakfast.
The happy chatter of the little children as they tuck into their breakfast is a fitting backdrop to hearing Pearl’s story. “I’ve been doing this for between 17 and 20 years, I’m not quite sure,” she says with a smile. I started in a small shack with 50 kids, and this is how we’ve grown.”
“This is my passion, my heart. I’ve no kids of my own,” she says. “I was married, but it didn’t work out.
“My husband didn’t like what I was doing, and I just had to make a decision. Between my marriage and the children; I chose the children.”
Pearl has managed over the years to feed an increasing number of children, largely reliant on donations.
Her faith over the years has been steadfast that God will provide, and that faith is once more rewarded by a significant donation from the Rotary Club of Somerset West.
Rotarian Penny Sandham, accompanied by club president Frank Freeman and Rotarian Ted Hoek, delivered the first consignment of food supplies which will give Pearl certainty of supply for the next eighteen weeks, for breakfast, and a nourishing cooked meal after school.
“We will supply Pearl with 20kg samp; 20kg bean, lentil, pea, barley mix; 10kg pasta, 10kg giblets, 5kg chicken and ?kg e’Pap, for the next 18 weeks. When the money runs out, we’ll have to find someone else to help us,” says Penny, with characteristic Rotary optimism.
The e’Pap, a locally developed product, forms a critical component of the children’s daily nutrition, because it is fortified with with vitamins and minerals added in a form that the body can absorb and use.
e’Pap is a pre-cooked porridge powder made from whole-grain maize and soya bean, and it contains maize, soya, sugar, salt, flavouring, lecithin, nucleotides, anti-oxidants, a non-nutritive natural sweetener, minerals and vitamins.
No added synthetic sweeteners, no artificial colorants and no preservatives are used, and it is free of wheat gluten and lactose.
The main ingredients in e’Pap are rich in natural nutrients such as Omega fatty acids. The added minerals and vitamins that fortify e’Pap are used to maximise biological absorption by the body.
The support for Pearl’s feeding scheme was made possible by a donation of GBP1 200 from the Rotary Club of Northwich Vale Royal in England, which consists of GBP600 raised by the club, under the aegis
of Rotarian Malcolm Ross, and a GBP600 matching grant from the Rotary district.
Aside from feeding the children, Pearl also runs a homework club for between 70 and 80 children during the week. “The high school kids come on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday afternoons,” says Pearl, “and the primary school kids come on Thursday afternoons, and we have two teachers who supervise and help with homework.”
But it doesn’t end there. “I also have a library here, which is open from five to six every afternoon,” says Pearl.
And Pearl’s major plan is to acquire a three hectare property close by, which will allow her to realise her ultimate dream. “I’ve got a vision, and God gave it to me,” she says.
“If I can get this property, there’ll be place for a technical school – some of the kids are not equipped to achieve academically, and they can learn to work with their hands – there’ll be place for a house for some of the kids to live, and there’ll be plenty of space for a food garden.”