Unconfirmed number of people served on Christmas Day 2023: 680! Wonderful to be part of this amazing day where the less fortunate were made to feel like cherished guests.
While some of us are thinking, ‘Damn, there are only x shopping days left before Christmas’, a different set of numbers is focusing the minds at the Hope Exchange on Roeland Street in Cape Town: raising enough money and recruiting enough volunteers to meet their annual commitment to feed the homeless over the festive season.
The annual Feed5000 campaign was started even before Covid, when the number of homeless living in our city seemed to explode. It was devised as a programme to feed the homeless over the festive season, when options for a free/subsidised meal are dramatically reduced because the city’s main feeding scheme closes so that their staff can be with their families, many in faraway places.
Like the parable of Jesus and his disciples feeding 5000 people with just five loaves of bread and two fish, the Hope Exchange, which is not essentially a feeding scheme, roll out nothing short of a miracle … every day for five weeks. This year’s campaign launched on Thursday, December 14.
The work of the Hope Exchange is largely focused on reintegrating homeless people into society and reunifying them with their families. They offer facilities for people on the street to have a shower, to brush their teeth and to wash their clothes as a first step towards dignity.
This year, CallOffTheSearch will be collecting donations of towels, soaps, shampoos and so on from friends, family and other fans this year to assist with this service, which is offered not just at Christmas time but all year round.
Hope Exchange also offers a monthly health clinics, social work skills sessions (such as job readiness, dealing with gender violence or addiction) and skills training, for example, in how to become a barista.
In addition to the super-busy car wash run on its premises, watch video on left, Hope Exchange is raising funds to open a coffee shop that would build on the barista training programme launched this year in collaboration with former shelter resident and now coffee shop owner, Mondli Mahamba (watch the video of Mondli’s story on the right). These are just two of the interventions run by Hope Exchange to help homeless people get their lives back on track.
Medical lockers that are made available to homeless people in the city is another genius way Hope Exchange is helping the homeless to help themselves. Many people on the street have medical problems that require medication, including mental health issues. They face a number of problems around managing their healthcare regime, for example the fact that medication must usually be taken with food. Also, many courses of medication require absolute compliance to be effective.
When you have nowhere to store your meds, they can easily be ruined, lost or stolen. The medical lockers at Hope Exchange are run under the care of a staff member who knows the clients and the difficult circumstances under which most of them want to take their meds properly.
Feed5000, which is run in in partnership with Ladles of Love, provided 12,000 meals last year. The stated mission of these two amazing organisations is to turn no hungry person away from the haven for the homeless in Roeland Street.
At a time of extraordinary abundance for most of us, the Hope Exchange desperately needs assistance.
Feed5000 is funded by donations from individuals. The meals are prepared and served by volunteers who sign up for short shifts via the Hope Exchange’s website: https://thehopeexchange.org/feed5000-volunteer-23-24/
As we all get into full-scale planning mode for the feasting and other festivities, please consider volunteering just a few hours of your time over the next five weeks to prep food or serve people. If you can’t manage that please make a cash donation, “for only R250 you will cover our very basics to give one homeless person a healthy meal every day in the #Feed5000 period”!. Think about it … R250! Or R500 for two people. DONATE
I have volunteered to do a food prepping shift for a few hours on Christmas morning. Making this commitment has immediately added a nice shiny gloss to that tired old halo of mine. I know it all sounds fantastically Flo Nightingale of me but I really am delighted to have made this commitment. I feel extremely grateful to be able to be involved in such a meaningful initiative for just the cost of a few hours of my time.
Maybe when we all regroup at our offices next year, instead of telling stories of how much we ate and drank and received, we can shares notes about doing a little something nice for someone we don’t even know.