by Gqibelo Dandala, Executive Director, One to One Africa
There are many ways to feed a (wo)man, or so the philosophers would have us believe. Give a person a fish and you feed them for a day, teach them how to fish and you’ll feed them for life. I take it a step further: give them bait and you’ll feed them today and in perpetuity. At One to One Africa, we believe in the extended version and what that entails. It means going beyond the call of our duty as our job descriptions dictate. It means having the eyes to see what our team of Mentor Mothers encounter every day, the ability to hear what our team tells us about the challenges faced by the people we serve in the Last Mile communities and most importantly the willingness to not only be responsive, but in a manner that is empowering for our clients. How?, you ask. Simple: we ask both the people that we serve and our team which serves them what they would like us, as One To One Africa, to do to support them.
Our team first met Ntomboxolo (daughter of peace) when she was pregnant and mother to a baby in 2019. She gave birth to a precocious baby boy, born free of HIV. While she and her young family survived the immediate impact of COVID-19, they were victim to the economic impact – her partner lost his job, making the family entirely reliant on the government child grants. And with that came excessive hunger. Our team, ever present and on the ground, anticipated the struggles ahead, particularly issues of food security. One To One Africa provided the most hard-hit families with food parcels, and her family was a recipient. But that was a temporary solution. A more permanent solution was to provide nutritional advice and one better… provide vegetable seedlings. And so in early 2021, Ntomboxolo started her own vegetable garden.
I met Ntomboxolo just after World AIDS day this year. Herself HIV negative, her family is directly affected by HIV. Therefore the issue of food security, and in particular nutritional security, is fundamental to maintaining the wellbeing of her family. She remained true to the extended proverb – give a person bait… She tells me with pride, how she been tending to her garden every single morning, rain or shine. Seeing the first harvest was one of her proudest moments, she says then proceeds to take me out into her little garden to view her the latest plants coming through. And what a sight it was to behold! The mixture of pride, joy and sheer excitement on her face belied her quiet demeanor. The confidence in her steps as she walked around pointing out what was growing in each patch of garden, speaking about anticipated harvest times was amazing to see. She shared how she previously only grew maize until one of our Mentor Mothers advised her on food nutrition guidance, and particularly the importance of eating a variety of vegetables.
I quietly applauded her willingness to learn, and then acting on the advice. How often do we learn and yet fail to implement those critical lessons? She did so with great enthusiasm. And the rewards thereof were beyond simple access to food and nutrition, she no longer felt a victim to poverty and hunger because she could now feed her children, the child grants received now supplemented what she couldn’t grow in her garden instead of being the only source of food security! While we at One To One Africa provided the seedling, it was Ntomboxolo who turned the seedling to life. Fabienne Fredrickson said “The day you plant the seed is not the day you eat the fruit. Be patient and stay the course.” Ntomboxolo is a study in patience and staying the course. Ntomboxolo is but one example why One To One Africa is staying on course to improve the health outcomes of the women, children and households of Last Mile communities! Join us on this worthwhile journey.