Local Heroes 2022: Hot chips the only meal for many children in Scenery Park
A side dish snack is the only hot meal hundreds of children in Scenery Park receive, thanks do the kindness of Local Hero winner Rodney Parsons.
Parsons, 59, uses his income from his small business to provide meals of fresh chips and bread for more than 700 young children on Tuesdays, Saturdays and Sundays.
“These children have no food, nothing. I can’t sleep if I know children are hungry, and now some of these children can go to bed with their stomachs full,” Parsons said.
For 15 years he has been collecting supplies for a small takeaway shop in Scenery Park, which operates out of a blue container and is surrounded by children lined up on yellow benches waiting in anticipation.
“I went to this area and the children were walking in the streets during school time — they would pick up something on the ground and put it in their mouths. I passed a few chip places but this one fits my budget so I went and said, ‘okay let us start with 100 chips’, then 200, which went up to 300 to 400 — it’s a very poor area.”
Parsons spends around R5,000 a week on supplies from his salary running Carlene’s Daycare.
“The children had no food, nothing, their parents are getting R350 and it makes my heart sore to see a child without anything to eat, going to sleep without anything. I’ve tried lots of places asking for help but everything went to a dead end. So I thought, let me use some of my money for the feeding scheme.
The children had no food, nothing, their parents are getting R350 and it makes my heart sore to see a child without anything to eat, going to sleep without anything.
“Sometimes we get donations of hot soup, and if there is anything left over it’s given to a daycare or St John’s Church.”
The hardest time was during the pandemic, which Parsons said nearly caused him to call it quits.
“The police would chase me away during lockdown saying I had to stop feeding the children, but the community stood up for me.
“Madiba was my inspiration. He is the guy who taught me about hungry children. Sometimes I pay for party packs and birthday parties.
The children motivated Parsons not to give up, affectionately calling him their father.
“These little children, they lifted me up and said to me ‘you’re not going nowhere, you’re our father here’.
This is what makes me happy and makes me smile — when I see that child eating something.”
Volunteer and roadworker Yanga Mamba said she assisted Parsons in organising the children as they waited for their meal.
“Most of the mothers here drink a lot, they have no food. At the weekends they go to the taverns and the children are left alone and hungry.
“Rodney feeds them here. This initiative also reduces rape, because if a child is hungry for food they knock on a neighbour’s door and men take advantage of them.”
Mamba said the children affectionately call Parsons mlungu or “white person” in isiXhosa.
I know the children in the area and tell Rodney if one of them needs anything extra or a bigger helping cause they haven’t eaten in a few days he does what he can.
She said: “I know the children in the area and tell Rodney if one of them needs anything extra or a bigger helping cause they haven’t eaten in a few days he does what he can.”
Nominator Jessica Parsons said her father hoped “to lift the spirit of the young children within the community” and had been involved in multiple charitable acts above and beyond the feeding scheme.
“My father collects unwanted clothes and other necessities from different places to provide for the less fortunate.
“He makes care packages for the needy that usually consist of non-perishables and things needed to make their lives a little easier.
“He believes that if you are able to help those who are less fortunate you should try, even if it is just an extra loaf of bread when you buy your groceries.
“Every little bit helps and my dad is trying his best to brighten up the little ones’ lives, even if it is just for a moment.”
Parsons said he was blown away by the win and hoped to use the future funds to build an outside area where children could sit while eating.
“I would build a big place where the kids can come inside and sit and eat like human beings. To see a child smile when he sees a plate of food, even if it’s a little bit of chips on a slice of bread, that’s what makes me happy.”
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