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Christian couple turn what little they have into food garden feeding 30 starving families

Retrenched mineworker Andile Faniso and his wife Maude make a difference in impoverished Ethembeni village

Andile Faniso and his wife Maude Nophelo Faniso at their vegetable garden at Ethembeni village in Qonce are destined to feed and help those who need help the most.
Andile Faniso and his wife Maude Nophelo Faniso at their vegetable garden at Ethembeni village in Qonce are destined to feed and help those who need help the most.

Though struggling to make ends meet themselves, a couple live their Christian values by providing food and serving others in their impoverished community.

Truck driver Andile Faniso, 50, a former unskilled mineworker who was retrenched in the 90s, and his wife, Maude Nophelo, 45, who was a domestic worker, use the little they have to share with those who have nothing at all.  

Andile, who is an under-deacon in the Old Apostolic Church of Southern Africa, his wife and their three daughters produce gardens full of vegetables which they distribute to their starving community in Ethembeni village in, Qonce, for free.

They also run a soup kitchen and have started sports projects.

They started with their initiatives in 2014.

Their sports projects are aimed at helping to get the youth off the streets and away from crime, alcohol and drugs, which are rife in the community.

The family, who enjoy gardening, started by growing vegetables in their own backyard.

After producing bunches of spinach, cabbages and pumpkins, they shared it with three neighbours who were struggling to survive.

The also provided vegetables for patients at the local clinic.

As their vegetable gardens grew, they were able to provide food to more and more families.

They now provide fresh and nutritious vegetables to 30 struggling families, including young and old, the disabled, abandoned and orphaned.

Andile said it was heartbreaking to see how mass retrenchments of migrant mineworkers had affected families in the village, who were left starving and could not afford to send their children to school. 

In the first few months of 2022, 38 Eastern Cape children starved to death, according to official statistics.

The couple said families whom they provided with vegetables had also started working in the gardens.

Rural community self-help, born in a time of callous self-enrichment by an economic elite, was starting to work, Andile said.

“We don’t feast on a healthy dinner while neighbours and their children go to bed on empty stomachs.

“We decided to share the little we have with others.”

The family started their Thembeni Community  Development Project in 2015, along with their daughters and three close relatives.

It was registered as an NPO in 2020, and now has 30 members.

“The project was started initially to encourage people to work their land, starting small,” said Andile.

The family believe in being an example and a light to others, as called to by Jesus, by teaching them to provide for and help each other.

The crops produced on the 7ha of land all go towards feeding the community, with no commercial profit.

“The project is not only about sharing vegetables, it’s more than that.

“In the village, there are some destitute families and elderly and or disabled people, some staying alone with young children,” Maude said.

They also assist physically or mentally disabled people by cleaning their homes, doing their laundry, cooking for them, and feeding their pets.

“We help children go to schools, help those who want to get identity documents, social grants or medical examinations by hooking them up with officials from relevant department officials,” Maude said.

When Andile worked on the mines, he was an avid rugby player and attained qualifications as a coach.

“I have a Level One qualification in coaching rugby, Level 2 risk assessment and Boksmart qualifications,” said Andile, who played rugby and soccer during his school years.

He volunteers as a sport development officer and coach for both soccer and rugby at four Ethembeni primary schools — Matthew Goniwe, Nxawe and  Dukumbane — as well as Mure Primary School in Mbaxa village.

Two months ago, the Faniso’s received groceries and seedlings from the Gift of the Givers, which they distributed in the community.

“We also assist children to look for bursaries,” he said.

The couple are now looking for Good Samaritans who can help build decent homes for two elderly people, who are both 100 years of age, and live in squalor.

Maude left her job as a domestic worker in East London in 2021 to focus on their humanitarian project.



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