CAPE TOWN, South Africa — South Africa is a country located right at the bottom of the African continent. It is often called a second world country since it’s more developed than most African countries. Yet the living conditions in South Africa are not as good as the first world countries as it has many third world problems.
Facts About Living Conditions in South Africa
The country is home to 2.2 million legal immigrants and close to one million undocumented foreigners, most of whom are housed in the Gauteng province where Johannesburg is located. While some of these migrants are either well off or holding their own with small businesses, others barely have enough food for themselves.
The streets of Johannesburg are teeming with foreigners as well as South African nationals. These people come from other provinces seeking a better life in the big city only to meet with hardship and struggle. Some of them have taken to sleeping right on the pavements, while others have found refuge in abandoned buildings. Many have made squatter camps which have formed communities.
Not knowing where they will get their next meal from, they live every day expecting the worst for themselves and their children. In July 2018, the body of a homeless man was found near the headquarters of the ANC, the ruling political party. He had died from ill health and cold temperatures. While the government is not doing much to lessen the painful living conditions in South Africa for the less fortunate, some community members rose to the occasion after realizing the needs of these people.
Blessed Sacrament’s Soup Kitchen
The Borgen Project spoke to Mrs. Amanda Isaacs, the founder of a soup kitchen at Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church in Bedfordview, Johannesburg. Mrs. Isaacs began her soup kitchen all on her own in 2003. All she had that fateful morning were three loaves of bread, a liter of milk and coffee. She managed to feed peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to 10 people that day.
As the number of people coming to the soup kitchen grew, Mrs. Isaacs employed the help of willing volunteers and a few friends who took time off on Thursday mornings to assist her. More people in the church were mobilized to contribute to the cause. The money they raised was used to buy necessities for the soup kitchen. One of the helpers owns a game farm and she started giving game meat to the soup kitchen on a regular basis. A neighborhood bakery decided that instead of throwing away bread, savories and other baked goods at the end of each day they would give it to the church.
15 years later, Mrs. Isaacs and her team of helpers serve a healthy, balanced meal along with little savory pies and baked goods to the needy. There are always fruits and sometimes sweets for the children to take home. The environment is very friendly because the people who come to the soup kitchen are regulars and know the drill as well as each other quite well.
The Borgen Project also spoke with two Zimbabwean ladies who are regulars at the Blessed Sacrament’s soup kitchen. The ladies remarked that many Zimbabwean women who come to the soup kitchen had originally left Zimbabwe in search of greener pastures. Unfortunately, South Africa was not the paradise they had envisioned and due to many unforeseen difficulties, they are now dependent on these soup kitchens for survival. One of the ladies had traveled to Johannesburg with her husband and is now struggling to find a permanent job. She gets hired here and there to do odd jobs for very little money.
Despite the prestigious ‘City of Gold’, Johannesburg, having failed to live up to its glamorous name, the homeless people in the city have found comfort and nourishment in the community. Mrs. Isaacs told The Borgen Project that many churches have set up soup kitchens as there are three large squatter camps in the Bedfordview region. The Blessed Sacrament’s soup kitchen and the community in Bedfordview are but a fraction of the number of homeless people in South Africa.
– Aquillina Ngowera