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Community centre provides support for families in Gonubie area

Feeding scheme for more than 700 children in informal settlement

Director of Jika Uluntu Ziyanda Xaso delivers breakfast to the children ofNkwezana Primary School, Sunrise-on Sea.
Director of Jika Uluntu Ziyanda Xaso delivers breakfast to the children ofNkwezana Primary School, Sunrise-on Sea.
Image: SUPPLIED

Local Hero nominee Ziyanda Xaso, 44, from Amalinda, left her prominent career in the finance industry to focus on community upliftment and now runs the Jika Uluntu Community Centre NPO on the N2 near the Gonubie Farmers Hall.

“Our focus is on rehabilitating the family and communities. We do household visits within our community of 491 households,” Xaso said.

“Our social workers see what the conditions are and assess what documents they lack, like IDs and birth certificates. If documents are missing they can’t access social grants, which is the social protection the government offers.” 

Jika Uluntu opened in 2017 and has grown to support the ward 50 area, which includes Kwelerha, Gonubie Hall and Tikinini informal settlements.

The NPO has a daily feeding scheme for more than 700 children, a preschool that offers two hot meals a day, and an after-school programme. It promotes HIV awareness making sure there is adequate access to medication by organising a mobile clinic in conjunction with the district department of health.

For some of these children, that’s the only meal they get. I have no children and I’m not married, so this gives me life. All these children are like my own

“The centre has six prefab buildings, one is a preschool with an enrolment of 19 children from two up to age five and we offer them two meals.

“We have ablution facilities because there are none in the area and a kitchen.” 

Xaso said the after-school programme included a hot meal for 71 schoolchildren from grade R to grade 12, with homework support, group and individual counselling from social workers and team-building games. 

“For some of these children, that’s the only meal they get. I have no children and I’m not married, so this gives me life. All these children are like my own.

“Every single person regardless of their challenges understands that there is a reason they are at the point that they are. I am someone who looks at a person, I try to understand why.” 

Jika Uluntu has five permanent staff members and three volunteers and recently employed 27 young adults from the area as part of the NYP programme as youth ambassadors. 

“We are funded by Solidar Med from Switzerland and get a lot of support from Lilyfontein School and rely on donations from the East London Agricultural Society, who leased us the land for free.”

The children in the morning are unwashed because there is no water

Xaso said the NPO was started after seeing a large gap in support in the growing informal community. 

Some of the younger children born on farms want to strike out on their own and move to the [city] — we noticed this community was growing and growing.

“It is an informal settlement. They don’t have any water or electricity and are not recognised by the government. 

“The children in the morning are unwashed because there is no water.”

She said a big challenge was a lack of documentation and a lack of rehabilitation facilities for children with substance abuse problems.

“Without proper documentation, people cannot access basic social protection and it makes it hard for us to account for the services we provide.

“We also see substance abuse in the youth; we have children as young as nine who are addicted to illegal drugs.

“This is a knock-on effect of the pandemic — some of these children rely on the one meal they got from school for them to be able to eat.

“Because of school rotation, they would stay at home and be hungry and would use drugs to numb that.”

DispatchLIVE


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