Last February, I became involved with Visit.org, the world’s largest discovery and booking platform for immersive, impactful travel experiences hosted by do-good organizations around the world. When an experience is booked on Visit.org, 100% of host revenue gets reinvested into the local community. My role with Visit.org is an ambassador, which means that when I travel, I participate in these experiences myself. I visit the organizations on the platform to take photos and video, tell their stories, and determine if the experience is something we want to continue to promote on the website.
When I was in South Africa, I had the opportunity to visit two of these organizations, which showed me another side to Cape Town from what I had seen in the center city. Both organizations took me to Kyayelitsha, a township founded in 1985, during the times of apartheid, when black South Africans were forcefully relocated to black neighborhoods.
Peninsula School Feeding Association
The Peninsula School Feeding Association, or PSFA, provides breakfast and lunch to more than 28,000 children in 160 of Cape Town’s schools. Some schools also have after-school meals available. One of PSFA’s mottos is “You Can’t Teach a Hungry Child.” Instead of singling out the specific children who are thought to need assistance, PSFA feeds every child at each school they support.
My visit started out at the PSFA offices and warehouse where I met the wonderful people responsible for making all of this happen, including Charles, the fundraising manager. I saw the food in the warehouse – tons of canned fish, rice, beans, milk in a bag (that lasts longer than bottled milk), and a lot of fresh fruit and veggies. Butternut Squash, which I noticed on every menu in town, was abundant. After the tour of the warehouse, I was brought to a primary school to help distribute the meals during lunchtime. I met and spoke with the women who were preparing the food, two previously unemployed parents of students from the school, who were provided nutritional and cooking training by PSFA.
PSFA doesn’t drop the food off and run. Each school that receives donations is visited during spot checks throughout the term to ensure that food is being stored properly and prepared hygienically and that the food is going directly to the students. During the winter holiday, PSFA works with churches in the area to continue to provide meals to the students who would be receiving them at school. PSFA also provides the kitchens, stoves, equipment, supplies, and gas in order to ensure a successful program.
I sometimes get a little nervous about visits to schools because I wouldn’t want to be a distraction and take up precious learning time, but I felt good about it during this opportunity. Visitors are only interacting with the children during their lunch break, to serve them the food that has been prepared. I helped serve more than 200 children that day and they were all adorable, smiling, and giving me fist bumps. I gave back my own smiles and fist bumps. It was a wonderful experience.
It only costs 395 South African Rand, or currently $31 US to feed a child for an entire year. Please consider making a donation today on PSFA’s website. 100% of donations go to the direct cost of feeding the children. You can see more from my visit here.
Uthando means “love” in Xhosa, one of the eleven official languages of South Africa. This organization supports a number of local nonprofits that are making a difference in the township areas.
I was picked up from my Airbnb by Xolani from Uthando, who had six other travelers in his van. On the way out to Kyayelitsha, Xolani told us a little bit about the situation during apartheid. He himself was born in 1984 in Cape Town, but was classified as a non-South-African citizen. In those days, 75% of the people occupied 13% of the land and everything else was designated for white people. Xolani told us about how the black South Africans had to carry around passbooks with them at all times and if they were found without them in hand, they were considered illegal.
First stop was a daycare facility, the Iminathi “Stand With Us” Educare Center. Iminathi helps prepare children age 6 months to 6 years for schooling and provides reading and music education. As I mentioned above, I sometimes become a little nervous about involving children, but we were there to learn about the program and not to interrupt any lessons. I also understand that the facility we visited is in need of the financial support that comes when people learn about the center. Iminathi is currently raising funds to complete construction. In addition to the educational programs, Iminathi has laundry machines so parents can read to their children while the wash is being done instead of spending time manually washing everything at home, and after-school homework clubs in which former students return to help out current students.
We then traveled to eKhaya eKasi “Home in the Hood” Art and Education Centre. After-school literacy, art, and music programs are held for students in the local community. Unemployed or underemployed adults are taught skills to help bring them jobs. On the day we visited, a group of women was working to create beading work, including jewelry, magnets, and keychains. We were treated to a performance by a local singing group, Major Voices, who I randomly saw again the next day in a square while walking around town. The women at the workshop also tend to a garden on the rooftop that helps feed the community. The gift shop was a good place to buy souvenirs that I knew would contribute directly to the people making them.
My favorite stop of the day was at the Senior center, Sinovuyo “We Are Happy” Old Age Group. I’ve been spending a lot of time with the elderly (ahem, my newly retired parents) lately so it made me feel at home. We went around the room introducing ourselves and there were follow-up questions for us and for them as well. For me, the most important question on everyone’s minds was why I am not married, but I know the question didn’t come from a bad place. For the seniors, this was an activity of their day as much as their exercises and choir practice, meeting and learning about people from other countries and being able to share their important stories with us.
What I didn’t know when I signed up for this tour was that there was an opportunity to visit an animal shelter, too, which I would have LOVED, if my experience with Yangon Animal Shelter and Visit.org is any indication. If you schedule a tour with Uthando, it might be worth providing input into what you’re most interested in beforehand.
The idea behind bringing visitors to all of these organizations is to raise awareness of the causes and to fund-raise so that more can be done to help the local community. It’s important to experience Cape Town’s burgeoning food scene when you visit, but it’s also important to know that not all of Cape Town’s residents experience life in the same ways due to a relatively recent painful history. The organizations supported during these Visit.org opportunities are making an impact and you can be a part of that.
This post contains affiliate links, which means some cash will be contributed to my chai latte/everything bagel fund if you purchase a product or experience I recommend. I would never recommend something I did not believe in.