Buddhists donate food to Buffalo's poor
By Nangamso Mabindla
17 February 2004
COMMUNITY leaders handed over food parcels and clothes donated by a Buddhist aid organisation to 93 poverty-stricken families in the East London suburb of Southernwood on Sunday.
Southernwood residents were up early on Sunday morning in anticipation of the arrival of representatives of the Buddhist Compassion Relief Tzu-Chi Foundation, a Taiwanese organisation that assists poor communities around the world. The foundation has 3-million members.
Thobeka Nkosiyane, a local community leader, helped organise the donation. She said she had noticed the growing number of people living below the breadline in the suburb.
"I sell fruit and vegetables here. Poor people ask me to give them food. I can't chase them away so I give them some of my fruit and vegetables."
But Nkosiyane's gifts to the hungry were eating into her profits. It was then that she and Cynthia Genu, another community leader, came up with a solution. "We had heard about the foundation and approached the Eastern Cape Taiwanese Chamber Of Commerce for help," said Nkosiyane.
Charlene Keir, a member of the chamber of business, then contacted the Tzu-Chi Foundation for assistance. "We once brought parcels to the Cambridge community but have since concentrated on other parts of the province. We are happy that to be in Southernwood and we are looking forward to returning," said Keir.
Genu said they did not want to wait for either municipal or government help "as there are other poor communities in the city waiting for relief".
"This is not a government venture but a community venture aided by the Taiwanese people," Genu said.
Nkosiyane said people often misjudged Southernwood "because it is in town … People think Southernwood has middle-class citizens. That is probably why we get overlooked when it comes to receiving food parcels."
The parcels handed to the families contained basic food stuffs, including mealie meal, salt and samp, while the children were given clothing.
"We understand the importance of getting dressed, so we brought clothes for the many children here in the community. They also deserve to be noticed because they are the future of Buffalo City," said Joe Shen, the chairman of the Taiwanese Chamber of Commerce.
With tears streaming down his face, resident Robert Heathcock said he was "happy and grateful to the foundation and our leaders", while Shiela Geza said she was happy that there were people out there who cared about their needs.
"At least their pity moves them to do something about the plight facing us and our children. I would like to say thank you to the Tzu-Chi Foundation for their help."
The foundation said it planned to bring food parcels to people in need in Quigney, on the East London beach front, and in other areas around the city. It would also return to Southernwood at the end of the year.