In October 2013, Louise Hendricks wanted to make breakfast for her son, Shalim Johnson, who was in matric. The only problem was that he lived 462km away, in Beaufort West.
But that did not dampen Hendricks’ generous and kind-hearted spirit. Rather, it took her to her church, the Apostolic Faith Mission in Delft.
She was touched when the pastor called six matric pupils from Voorbrug Senior Secondary School up to the pulpit and prayed for them. The pastor explained that many pupils write exams on an empty stomach.
“At that moment, I said to myself I must serve them breakfast because my son is far away,” says Hendricks. “I invited the [pupils from Voorbrug] after the service. They accepted my invitation and came to my house. I served them lunch that day.”
Birth of a feeding scheme
At the start of 2014, Hendricks went looking for teenagers from disadvantaged backgrounds who were in matric. “The purpose was to establish a feeding scheme. I found 20 children. I invited them and they were served lunch,” she says, remembering that she served them lunch every day through the matric exams.
In 2015, Hendricks went to Voorbrug to invite every pupil who was in matric for breakfast and lunch, every day, during the course of the matric exams. Since then, she has been serving breakfast and lunch each day to 70 pupils from the day exams start until they finish.
From a small kitchen in Mendoza Street in the Cape Town suburb of Delft, Hendricks’ newly formed non-profit organisation (NPO) called Angels of Change, comprising Hendricks and her daughter, Carol-Ann Alexander, makes breakfast and lunch for 70 youngsters, using one oven and a four-plate stove.
They wake up at 5am every day while exams are in progress to prepare a breakfast made up of fish cakes, porridge, Kellogg’s Corn Flakes, tea, juice and a toasted sandwich for breakfast. The learners begin arriving from 7am. As the Christian tradition dictates, they say grace before each meal.
‘Deep down from my heart’
After breakfast, the learners head to school with full stomachs, ready to write their exams. Angels of Change then immediately begin preparing for lunch. They serve a plate of rice, vegetables, tuna salad, meat, pap, stampmielies (samp) and boerewors.
“We are managing through the grace of God. I have no money and equipment to do this,” she says. “But I am doing it because it is coming deep down from my heart. There is no funding. We get sponsors here and there.”
Explaining their background, Alexander, the Angels of Change coordinator, reminisces about how eager her mother had been to spoil her brother with a lavish breakfast.
Alexander says she vividly remembers when the first six matric learners were served. “Two tables were laid. Happiness was written on my mother’s face.” She says they hope that as Angels of Change is now a registered NPO, funding will come.
“We have to use the living room when the learners are writing major subjects such as Xhosa, English and Afrikaans. This is becoming bigger than our pockets,” she says.
More than food
Voorbrug grade 12 pupil Asanda Majuqulwana says they get more than a meal at the Hendricks’ place. “We get a chance to do revision,” he says. “By that, you get to know something you did not know from your fellow learners. You get to the exams fully prepared. Not to mention morning prayers that give us strength and courage.”
He says Hendricks and Alexander feed them healthy food, which is scarce for most of them. “We don’t often get the kind of food we eat here, at home. We are very grateful for what the Angels of Change is doing for us. May God bless them.”
Another matriculant, Katelin Hoedemaker, concurs. “Others don’t get this meal at home. We are really appreciating it. We sit on tables decorated like in weddings. This is a privilege to us.”
She says it is here that they get a chance to rest before writing exams. “Unlike at school, we get a chance to communicate here. Even if you did not understand a certain part in the subject, those who know will help you to understand.”
Hendricks’ ultimate goal for Angels of Change is to expand to the rest of the Cape metro region and beyond. “The problem is lack of funds,” she says. “At the moment, we use our pockets and petrol. We open our cupboards and sacrifice our families’ food. But we don’t mind that at all because we are driven by passion.”
Hendricks says she had thought the funding problem was solved when supermarkets Shoprite and Spar, and dental surgery Dentico, donated food to her project in 2015.
“I told myself that was the beginning of good things to come. I have been relying on the generosity of the community, my group and the teachers from Voorbrug. I am appealing for donors to come on board to help me achieve my ultimate goal.
“This was given to me by God. I am not looking for a business opportunity. I just want to feed the children so they don’t write [exams] on empty stomachs,” she says.