Veggies for Kiddies was initiated by fourth-year social work student, Bridgette Mokae, after she identified a need at day care centres in the community of Heidedal in Bloemfontein. A year later, with the help of Child Welfare Heidedal and Interstate Buslines, day care centres in Ashbury are still reaping the fruits.
Mokae conducted a situation analysis in the community of Ashbury as part of her community work module while studying at the University of the Free State. She found that most day care centre owners were experiencing financial constraints due to the Covid-19 pandemic. “I then came up with the Veggies for Kiddies project to ensure that despite the day care centre owners experiencing financial constraints amidst the pandemic, they would be able to provide nutritious meals for the children. These meal are often the only meals some children receive for the day. In addition, although assistance was rendered to the owners, they were taught independence, as the aim from the beginning was for them to continue with the gardens on their own,” said Mokae.
The day care centres Mokae assisted were those of Margaret Kayser, Eileen Makowa (who has passed on since), Wilhelmina Weitz, Eunice Jasson and Lucy Seekoei. These home-based day care centre owners all experienced the same challenges.
Although the project was initiated by Mokae, the owners were directly involved in the process of establishing the vegetable gardens from start to finish. “They were taught independence from the first day the project started while I was a student social worker for six months within the community. This meant that after I had left, the owners were expected to sustain their vegetable gardens on their own. Interstate Buslines will continue to sponsor the gardens once a year to ensure that the project continues,” Mokae explained.
Mokae worked with Wilhelmina Weitz, a social auxiliary worker at Child Welfare Heidedal, and Tooi de Bruin, a community member. “They were responsible for ensuring that the gardens were adequately cared for even after I had left. It is evident that this project will continue to be sustainable as the owners took ownership from the beginning.”
A day care owner, Margaret Kayser, said she is now able to cook meals for the children at her day care centre on a daily basis. When she harvests the vegetables from her garden, she also shares the produce with parents in the community. “Most of the parents who have children at my centre are unemployed and at times struggle to meet their most basic needs. Although my day care centre is small, we have been able to feed some 20 children daily thus far.”