While she was scrolling through Facebook, a post on Amanzimtoti Trader’s page caught Thandeka Duma’s eye. In the post, a group of ladies who had volunteered to help The Domino Foundation’s Nutrition programme in the South Basin area were being thanked by the programme’s project leader, Cheryl Dann. Thandeka seized the opportunity and commented that she would be keen to see if Domino could help her with her initiative to feed hungry young members of her community in Illovu Township. So began a relationship which has flourished ever since.
Back in 2015, Thandeka was very concerned at the number of children passing her house each morning on their way to school without having had anything to eat before they had left home. She discovered that some of the children had sometimes not had a decent meal for several days and yet were determined to get to school. She couldn’t ignore their plight. Initially, she started feeding about fifty of them from her own kitchen. Inevitably, the news got out and it wasn’t long before Thandeka was inundated with hungry schoolchildren. Now she couldn’t cope on her own and needed assistance to help these young community members in desperate need.
The Domino Foundation’s Nutrition programme was the answer to her prayer. With the help of the programme’s Amanzimtoti’s kitchen, Thandeka is now able to feed as many as 150 children, providing them with protein-high sandwiches. Food hampers provided through the Nutrition programme also pass through Thandeka’s hands to fifty gogos caring for abandoned and orphaned children, and to other destitute families.
Her operation has grown so that, with the help of some ladies from the community, she is now able to provide a safe space for some of the children who come in the afternoon after school. Some extra mural activities are laid on for the children and they are helped with their homework. Thandeka creates an informal atmosphere where casual talk can take place while the children eat their sandwiches and chat with this wonderful mother to the community about vital life issues. This operation is now formally established as the Young Stars Nutrition and Development Centre and is a beacon of hope to many in the Illovu Township in Amanzimtoti.
Thandeka is adamant about how her life has been impacted by the relationship which has grown between the Centre and the Domino Toti programme: “My life has changed and so have the lives of so many children in this community… they have hope and a sense of purpose.” She notices how, with full tummies, the pupils happily go off to school and are able to apply themselves to their work. Absenteeism and truancy have lessened significantly at the local schools because the sandwiches Thandeka provides are a great incentive first to get a meal and then to go on to their classes.
The Young Stars Nutrition and Development Centre has become a haven way beyond merely being a feeding stop-off. The children feel secure there and Thandeka and her team are able to encourage good habits and community-mindedness and to help the children build dreams for their futures. Many of these young people come from homes where the lifestyle is very much hand-to-mouth and where there is little thought beyond today’s challenges. “I help them see that there is a future for themselves and how their prospects are improved if they develop good study habits now.”
Never one to feel that she has ‘arrived’, Thandeka has opened a take-away called ‘Good Shandis (or ‘Vibes’) Kitchen’. This provides home-cooked meals which can be bought and frozen. From her profits, she has been able to buy a freezer and to add a room to her house to serve as a kitchen for cooking and baking, enhancing her ability to reach out and help vulnerable members of the Ilovu community.
This extraordinary woman combines her passion for her community and amazing entrepreneurial skills to impact many lives. She is very humble about how it is God’s hand which has opened the doors for her enterprises in Illovu Township: “God has always looked after me. I pray for this very poor community and it was Him who led me to see Cheryl’s post on Facebook and to our establishing our wonderfully fruitful relationship. He is always there for me.”
Caption: Thandeka Duma featured with the Domino Amazimtoti Team – Cheryl and Purity.