Drop In Centre a place where children are nurtured
Chintsa East’s Themi Makefungana wants to keep youngsters safe, fed and motivated to better themselves.
“I believe in doing what you can where you are.”
This is how Chintsa East local Themi Makefungana views her role in developing the community.
The 31-year-old is the proud founder of the Chintsa East Drop In Centre — a place in the village where children have a dedicated homework space and receive a cooked meal every day.
It all started with Makefungana’s determination and a kind donation seven years ago.
“I used to work at the Chintsa visitors’ information centre and the kids from the village would come and ask for food. I’d give them whatever I could, but often I just didn’t have anything to give,” Makefungana said.
“One day I walked up to the entrance to the village and there were so many kids asking for food.
“On my way back I got a lift from a regular holidaymaker and told him how I really wanted to start a soup kitchen for these children.
“He dropped me off, and after a few minutes came back and gave me R300 to start my soup kitchen.”
Despite completing a diploma in international tourism, she said her passion for the community she had grown up in, inspired her to stay and work to improve the lives of others.
For the love of my community I decided to stay here and give back to the children
“For the love of my community I decided to stay here and give back to the children,” Makefungana, who has also completed a course in child care, said.
In 2014, Makefungana started cooking from home and delivering food to children in the village on weekends and almost every day over the school holidays.
The soup kitchen was run in this manner until 2018.
In 2015, Makefungana’s soup kitchen became a small centre, after having a container donated and getting permission to use a piece of land in Chintsa East.
“When we had a building to operate from we also started working with businesses like Buccaneers. They started a soup kitchen hike where tourists could go on a guided hike that ended at the Drop In Centre. This helped us so much and some tourists have continued to donate even after they leave SA,” Makefungana said.
Through continued sponsorships, assistance from the Chintsa community, individuals, tourists and businesses, Makefungana has been able to cook for and provide meals for up to 100 children every day for the past three years.
“We now operate each day and a wonderful lady, Glynnis Bartlett, helps us with a stipend to buy groceries every day,” Makefungana said.
“Now we are also lucky enough to have a homework room for the children in the afternoons.”
Makefungana, who also works five days a week as a fabric cutter for the African Angels Days for Girls Enterprise, said it was mostly her friends and family who volunteered with her at the Drop In Centre.
She said funding as well as social issues in the village were some of the centre’s greatest challenges.
Covid-19 hit us quite badly as we haven’t had many tourists, so that means fewer donations, but the Chintsa locals have really helped us a lot
“Covid-19 hit us quite badly as we haven’t had many tourists, so that means fewer donations, but the Chintsa locals have really helped us a lot.
“Another big issue we have is drugs in the village. Some kids are already doing it at a young age and do not go to school.
“I want to see each and every child going to school with a full tummy and all the things they need — clothes, school bags, shoes,” said Makefungana, who has often also collected clothing and other donations for children in need.
She said she tried to identify the children in the greatest need and helps wherever she could.
“We’ve managed to get uniforms for some of the children and I also help them to apply for IDs and other documents. Some kids have lost their parents, and we try to help as much as possible and also organise counselling for them,” she said.
Her work for the African Angels Days for Girls Enterprise involves being part of a team that makes reusable fabric sanitary towels which are donated to schoolgirls in need.
Makefungana is the menstrual and reproductive health educator for the girls when sanitary products are donated at schools.
“I really like the work I do there too, because I get to teach young girls and motivate them,” Makefungana said.
She said she hoped to see the Drop In Centre grow into an after-school programme where children could also learn practical skills or crafts such as beading, sewing and more.
“I really want to create that for the kids and have a place that can help them stay out of trouble. I’d love the centre to grow but it is not easy.”
Makefungana thanked everyone who had helped and continued to support the Drop In Centre.
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