Strength in adversity

Emily Stoffel Ndumisa feeds between 1 000 and 1 500 people - children, the elderly and the sick - each week.

Emily Stoffel Ndumisa doesn’t give up easily. When Covid-19 struck, her husband Nelson’s business, Ezweni Tours, ground to a halt, as did her spice packing business, The Lwandel Spice Girls, which provides employment to local residents.

Her after-school programme, which supported a number of school children from the community, also closed down immediately.

Her other passion, Ikhaya Soup Kitchen, continued to thrive, however, and with so many people facing hunger during lockdown, it is playing a vital role in the community.

“We’re feeding up to 1 500 people each day, children, the elderly and the sick,” Ms Stoffel Ndumiso told Bolander on Saturday.

She works tirelessly, cooking every day, but she points out that she does not work alone. “The chefs at Ikhaya are Agnes Fondile, Nomathemba Fokwebe, Sindiswa Soldaat, and Nolusindiso Dwesini.

“Keeping order and serving the children are Akhona Fokwebe, Zintle Fondile, Thembakazi Zozi, and Nomarsonto Ndlovu. They do not work at Ihkaya. They are volunteers from the community who just want to help.”

It all started back in 2017, when Ms Stoffel Ndumisa attended a Helderberg Rotary Sunrise “Township Entrepreneurs Programme”.

The 14-week programme gave delegates an overview of how to start and run a business in a micro economy.

Ms Stoffel Ndumisa was already active in her husband’s tour and shuttle business, and was running the after-school programme, and the soup kitchen, but the skills she learned inspired her, and in short order, her initiatives began to grow.

Her mission for the after-school programme, was to take children off the streets and to improve their reading and writing skills.

It was so successful that over
40 children crowded into the family lounge every afternoon, creating some stress for the Ndumiso family.

Chris Hart, one of the mentors on the entrepreneurship programme she attended is a member of the Erinvale Golf Club Eagles Charity.

Eagles members play golf weekly to raise funds for charities in the Helderberg area, and Ms Stoffel Ndumisa’s enthusiasm for life and vision for Ikhaya was so inspiring that Eagles decided to support the plan to move the school to its own premises.

A house was sought out and rented. With funds from Erinvale Eagles Charity, Rotary and other donors, it was renovated and fully equipped for Ms Stoffel Ndumisa’s needs for the after-school programme and the Ikhaya Soup Kitchen.

It was in these new premises, that Ms Stoffel Ndumisa, ever the entrepreneur, started the Lwandle Spice Girls spice packaging business, utilising the empty school building during the mornings.

“We buy the spices, like star anise, juniper berries, and cinamon, in bulk and repackage them for sale,” Ms Stoffel Ndumisa said.

In 2020, the school was once more relocated to better premises, but then came Covid-19, and schools closed overnight, putting an end during lockdown to her after school programme.

But in adversity there often lies opportunity.

The Helderberg Rotary Sunrise Club (HRSC) had shifted focus from educational activities to feeding the hungry during lockdown, and needed community partners.

HRSC community services chairman, Chris van der Leij takes up the story.

“We had donors for food parcels but needed a well-managed distribution point in Lwandle to ensure that the help reached those in need.

“With an empty school, Ms Stoffel Ndumisa was the obvious choice and the Ikhaya ‘Covid Kitchen’ was born,” Mr Van der Leij said.

“The food buyers carefully select products that provide nutritious balanced meals for many people in the community.”

The food is delivered to the Ikhaya Soup Kitchen every Monday by a Rotary team, and a team of community volunteers prepares and serves the food.

“The Rotary team includes (HRSC) president, Ona Greeff and her fellow Rotarians, and a number of ladies from Helderberg Village,” Mr Van der Leij said.

“Ms Stoffel Ndumiso’s ability to feed is growing because more and more support is coming her way.

“I’m just grateful that we’re able to put people like Ms Stoffel Ndumiso in the spotlight, because they are doing it out of the goodness of their hearts and I think it is something that we can support to the best of our ability and that’s fantastic.”

But there may be a glimmer of hope on the horison for
Ms Stoffel Ndumisa’s after-school programme with the recent announcement that the country will move to lockdown level 3 on Monday June 1.

“PresidentRamaphosa announced last week that the schools will be reopening,” Ms Stoffel Ndumisa said.

“When they do, I am hoping that I’ll be able to get the after-school programme going again for Grade 7 and Grade 12 pupils.”