There are so many needs in this world, but one of the most significant problems is a very basic one: hunger and malnutrition.
I know this problem is not isolated to communities in Africa — or even in third world countries. Right here in America, there are children and adults who go hungry. There are children who go home from school and have no food at all over the weekends.
Most of us cannot imagine what it would be like to literally have nothing to eat. I know I have definitely complained when we’re somewhere and there aren’t many food options or when it’s 5 p.m. and I need to make dinner again.
But can you imagine what it would be like to have nothing to eat in your house — not a scrap of food? And what it would feel like to be hungry but to have no way to pacify that hunger? Think how hard it would be if just trying to find a way to eat that day was your sole pressing existence?
That’s what it’s like for thousands and thousands of children in South Africa. They live in some of the poorest areas in Hammanskraal and they are accustomed to not having food in their house. Because they can’t afford to buy it and many don’t have parents to provide it for them.
When you have an empty belly, it’s hard to think of anything else. You can’t function well. You can’t dream or hope or think of a life outside of the confines of poverty. You just want to eat.
As we witnessed on our trip to South Africa, one of the foundational programs that Take Action Ministry provides for hundreds of children (around 1800 children daily!) is a way for them to have nutritional food in their bellies.
They’ve partnered with Joint Aid Management in South Africa to provide the most needy children with a bowl of JAM porridge every day — or sometimes even twice per day — at their Centres.
This JAM porridge is much more nutritionally dense than pap — which is often the only thing that most South African children in the poorest communities will ever get to eat. (You can read more about the porridge here.)
This porridge might seem like a small thing, but it makes a massive difference in these communities where hunger is such a pressing problem. It allows kids to know that every single day they’ll be able to get at least one meal — and it’s a meal that provides almost 80% of the nutritional needs children have each day.
When kids don’t have to suffer from hunger and malnutrition, they can concentrate better at school, they are able to thrive instead of just barely survive, and they don’t have to live in constant fear of going hungry.
Take Action Ministry begins in areas by providing this JAM porridge to the neediest children. Then, once they have that program in place and running on a daily basis, they are able to move on to more impactful programs, like providing educational and entrepreneurial resources and opportunities to help a community have the tools to rise above poverty and teaching communities how to grow their own gardens and provide fresh food for themselves and food that they can sell or give away to others in their community.
The Agricultural Program that they are working on rolling out in multiple communities right now is incredibly impressive. We got to meet some of the gardeners and see them in action and it was mind-blowing the techniques they are using.
They take basic materials that they get for free — old aluminum cans, dried leftover plants from old crops, and more — and they have a process for turning it into really fertile soil that produces great crops. It’s really amazing how they’ve discovered ways to take what they have on hand and turn it into successful gardens that provide fresh food for their families and extras that they can sell and earn a side income or even a full-time income!
The best thing of all about the Agricultural Program is that it gives these poor communities something to take great pride in. They see the fruit of their effort first-hand, it provides great benefit to their families, it gives them a marketable skill, and it helps them feel worth and value as a person — something that is often lost when poverty is so intense.
The seeds that are being planted through this program are reaping much, much more than just vegetables for this community; lives are being transformed by the dignity and hope that this is restoring to what once felt like never-ending hopelessness.