Veg­gie gar­den gives dig­nity to home­less

Street peo­ple learn new skills

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - NEWS - ASANDA SOKANYILE

HOME­LESS peo­ple in the CBD are get­ting a shot at a new be­gin­ning thanks to a veg­etable gar­den project.

Vol­un­teer gar­den­ers who have been home­less for years are be­ing trained at a 350m veg­gie gar­den on land owned by Fruit and Veg City in Roe­land Street, cour­tesy of a joint ini­tia­tive in­volv­ing Khulisa So­cial Ser­vices, the Ack­er­man Pick n Pay Foun­da­tion, Cen­tral City Im­prove­ment Dis­trict (CCID) and the provin­cial agri­cul­ture depart­ment.

The gar­den is made up of a to­tal of 51 boxes, each 2m x 1m, which are wa­tered from a moun­tain stream.

KSS has also signed a fiveyear con­tract with Trafal­gar High School in Dis­trict Six for about 500m² of land that is be­ing pre­pared.

Street peo­ple who have com­pleted train­ing will take over the Trafal­gar gar­den in which pupils will also par­tic­i­pate.

This week the home­less gar­den­ers, who earn a monthly stipend, told Week­end Ar­gus that al­though the project was in its in­fancy, they were ex­cited and en­joy­ing their work.

Simphiwe Ncaphayi, a 52year-old fa­ther of three, said he had lived on the streets since 2010 when a fight with his sib­lings had re­sulted in his los­ing his job.

Orig­i­nally from the East­ern Cape, he said the gar­den job had helped him re­gain his dig­nity.

“There has definitely been change in my life since I joined this gar­den­ing project last year. I have re­gained my self­worth and have been able to go back to my fam­ily with pride as a man, be­cause now I can at least con­trib­ute some­thing to­ward the ba­sic needs of the house­hold.”

Lee Stem­met, 28, has been on the street for 21 years and said he was de­lighted to be able to af­ford a roof over his head. “I left home when I was 7 be­cause I had been adopted. I never knew my real par­ents and my adop­tive par­ents abused me so I ran away.

“Life on the streets is tough be­cause it leads you to bad friends and I even started us­ing drugs at the age of 15.

“I had no pur­pose in life back then, but since I started work­ing in the gar­den I have learnt so much and I have been able to rent a small room where I now live and am safe.”

A third worker, Za­mu­zolo Masa­bal­ala, said the job had helped him gather the courage to re­unite with his fam­ily in the East­ern Cape whom he last saw in 1998.

“Now I will be able to go home and be a fa­ther to the child I left back in 1998.”

Khulisa is a non- profit or­gan­i­sa­tion which pro­vides al­ter­na­tive sen­tenc­ing ser­vices at the Cape Town Com­mu­nity Court. The project op­er­ates from a soup kitchen, the Ser­vice Din­ing Rooms, in Can­ter­bury Street in the city cen­tre.

‘I have re­gained

Khulisa strate­gic part­ner­ship man­ager Jesse Laiti­nen said the project was de­signed to help home­less peo­ple re­gain dig­nity through sus­tain­able work.

“There are no sus­tain­able jobs for home­less peo­ple. But through this project they get a chance to work in a sup­port­ive en­vi­ron­ment de­vel­oped around each in­di­vid­ual.

“This al­lows them to turn their lives around, make dif­fer­ent choices.”

Laiti­nen said a pi­lot food gar­den­ing project they ran early this year saw 77 per­cent of the peo­ple in­volved move off the streets and 68 per­cent ad­dress their sub­stance abuse prob­lems.

“There are so many invisible bar­ri­ers to over­come. Even open­ing bank ac­counts for them is dif­fi­cult. But we are com­mit­ted to the work we do, so we stay pos­i­tive,”

She said the provin­cial agri­cul­ture depart­ment had agreed to do­nate soil, seedlings and gar­den­ing equip­ment to help keep the project go­ing.

Giselle Terblanche, the depart­ment’s as­sis­tant com­mu­ni­ca­tions di­rec­tor, said they would fund six per­ma­nent work­ers and a fur­ther 24 sea­sonal work­ers who would main­tain the gar­dens with a bud­get of R86 500. The plan is for the veg­eta­bles to be sold in stores, with all pro­ceeds go­ing to gar­den­ers’ salaries, plus any tools needed, and the train­ing of fu­ture gar­den­ers.

PIC­TURE: MICHAEL WALKER

NUR­TUR­ING: Lau­ren Fred­er­icks, left, and Lee Stem­met wa­ter seedlings at the veg­etable gar­den off Roe­land Street.

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