‘She is Dordrecht’s Mother Teresa’

Local Hero nominee Naeema Khan from Dordrecht feeds up to 150 community members daily from her Hands of Compassion soup kitchen.
Local Hero nominee Naeema Khan from Dordrecht feeds up to 150 community members daily from her Hands of Compassion soup kitchen.

Local Hero nominee Naeema Khan, 39, from Dordrecht, does whatever it takes to feed the children of her community, most of whom would not eat without her NPO, Hands of Compassion.

“In March I took my own cellphone to Cash Crusaders,” she said.

“It’s still there right now, advertised in the paper. Just to make sure I could put petrol in the car to fetch polonies for the weekend.” 

She feeds more than 200 children daily, and adults whenever she can, after witnessing the dire living conditions in her area, Munnikville, while collecting data for the national census in 2022.

“I went to each household and the state of them ... one woman told me they didn’t have a toilet. She went out to the bushes before everyone was awake.

“She said how could she worry about a toilet when she had to worry about food for her kids.

“I saw the type of living — some said: ‘Come and look at our cupboard, we don’t have anything’.

“There is a question in the census: ‘What would you want the government to do for you?’

“Most asked if the government could provide them with food parcels. So with my first pay cheque, I decided to start feeding.”

Khan cooks breakfast and lunch from a recently won mobile kitchen which is permanently parked in her yard.

The mobile kitchen trailer was the prize in Twizza’s Faka iFlava competition in February.

Before winning this, she used her own stove, which cracked under the weight of the heavy pots.

“It’s become so much easier,” she said. Now that we have a gas burner I am able to cook with more pots.

“This is a rural area and most people depend on the Sassa grant, but the grant doesn’t do anything.

“After school fees and rent, food is where I come in to try to help.

“We make pap in the morning and when the children come out of school we prepare a hot meal so they don’t go to bed hungry.” 

Monthly sponsors for Hands of Compassion include Gift of the Givers, which provides staples such as rice and porridge, and a community leader in Komani, who supplies food parcels, but the NPO has no permanent funding.

“Some people say I’m crazy for doing this. They say that asking [for contributions] all the time is belittling myself, but I have to feed these children,” Khan said.

Twizza also sponsors cooldrinks, which she uses as a makeshift counting system for the number of meals she has provided. 

“Twizza gives 200 cooldrinks for the children and when they are finished, I know how many people have come in a day, but if there are more than 200 kids I try to find something to give them, like tinned fish, to take home.” 

A major expense was the cooking gas and Khan made the difficult decision to sell her 19kg cylinder for a 9kg option, using the funds to fill the smaller canister. 

“Even if I don’t have gas that doesn’t stop me — we make a fire outside. Nothing will stop me from feeding [the children].” 

She drives to Komani whenever a local business offers donations of any kind — meaty bones from the butcher, clothing, shoes or toys.

Khan organises holiday drives at Easter and hosts an annual Christmas party which has grown from 60 children in 2021 to 200 in 2023.

Her next plan is to erect a shelter so the children do not stand in blistering heat or freezing winter cold queuing for food.

“The children won’t leave until they receive a meal — this is how dependent they are on the meal I provide.” 

 A trained administrator and a Sunday school teacher at Stevens Memorial Methodist Church, Khan said it was a blessing to wake up with a purpose. 

“It’s not about recognition, but it’s a beautiful feeling to be nominated in this way. I want to say thank you to all those who have supported this.” 

She said that if she was selected as a Local Hero recipient, the win would be for her entire community.

“I wouldn’t want this in my name. It belongs to my community who need a place to come when hungry.”

Nominator Vivian O’Rie said: “I have never seen someone as dedicated as her. She will go the extra mile to feed the children, and she really cares.

“Because she is Dordrecht’s Mother Teresa, she won’t let a child go to bed without food. She even started a Sunday school for the children. She is their hero.”



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