Bo-Kaap extends a caring hand

Minoewra Grend, left, and Nabiela Salie hand out groceries to visitors to the soup kitchen.

Ramadaan is a time of sharing – and a soup kitchen project started by the Bo-Kaap community is a good example of how giving back brings people together.

The Bo-Kaap Ramadaan soup kitchen programme has been running for 14 years.

Masturah Adams, who started the soup kitchen, said the idea came about when they found there were a lot of people, particularly foreigners, coming into the area looking for jobs.

“People came, primarily during the month of Ramadaan, looking for work and something to eat. So we thought we’d start a soup kitchen. But, as it turned out, very few foreigners attended the kitchen – it was mainly our very own people. It dawned on us that there is an actual need to contribute towards the lives of the poor and needy people in our area.”

Ms Adams said residents in the Bo-Kaap ranged from the poor to the affluent.

“It’s a real mix of people and we’ve been very fortunate that a lot of the affluent people are assisting. That’s a big plus.”

Ms Adams said the soup kitchen ran throughout the year, but was especially important during the holy month of Ramadaan.

“During Ramadaan, in particular, it is a time of giving and sharing and you give your Zakah (‘charity’). This is the perfect time to share; to take that two-and-a-half percent of your savings and to share it with the poor.

“It is also very soul-cleansing and causes a deep awakening within you because one can become laid-back about your lifestyle.”

The soup kitchen was initiated by Ms Adams, along with a small team of people. Now, she is grateful for the community’s response.

“It just grew from strength to strength. We started from very humble beginnings and didn’t even know where our next penny would come from. I truly believe that it was through divine intervention that things fell into place.”

She said that, because of the group of volunteers and a supportive community, the kitchen has enjoyed success every year since the initiative started.

“This success is not based on money, but on being able to serve the poor and needy. The number of people coming to the kitchen just grew every single month.”

Ms Adams added: “When people come to the soup kitchen, I regard them as customers. They are people and I treat them with the utmost respect and humility. We are a family and we have built a relationship with our ‘customers’.”

Ms Adams said this was important as it took a lot of courage to queue for a plate of food – one should therefore not make people feel awkward or embarrassed.

“I don’t judge people. It shouldn’t matter if you pulled up in the grandest of vehicles. I don’t know what happened to you. It might be that you were without a job for that month and simply needed a plate of food.

“It gives us pleasure and satisfaction to know that we can do something for the community at large.”

On the 15th day of Ramadaan, or ‘Iftaar’, which was on Tuesday June 21, the kitchen held an evening where they break their fast in a mass dinner.

“We also have a grocery parcel distribution today for pensioners and poor and needy people,” Ms Adams said on Saturday, when they also invited elders in the community and children from disadvantaged backgrounds. Another highlight, says Ms Adams, is on the eve of Eid, which marks the end of the Ramadaan.

“We do mass cooking – where we distribute food to 10 000 people – as part of our outreach programme.”

Various townships across the city benefit from this initiative.

Bo-Kaap resident, Sedick Ismail, who has been serving food in the kitchen for the last five years, said he enjoyed volunteering.

“I enjoy serving the food, making people happy and making them smile.”

Mr Ismail added that Ramadaan was a month of giving.

“This is the month where everybody in Bo-Kaap opens their doors to the needy. Especially this month, people will give charity even if it is a blanket, a pair of shoes or socks. This project keeps the community together and everyone knows everyone here.”

He said the Bo-Kaap was one of the best places in the Western Cape and that it was a pleasure to help give something back to the community.

“If there was more that I could give I would give more,” said Mr Ismail.