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J-Bay is surfing the community and feeding the hungry!

Location: Jeffries Bay, South Africa

We all feel the effect of the Coronavirus: be it the loneliness from isolation or waking up to the uncertainty each morning, wondering when the world will feel normal again. But for some of us the reality of facing hunger hits home harder than the fear of the sickness itself.

The great story is that even when most of us can’t surf, we can still spread the stoke by joining hands and helping our local community through this difficult time. And that’s just it: a group of well-known surf friends in the surf hub in South Africa took a step in the right direction…

Let’s Feed J-Bay was born

It all started a week ago when surf mates (that have known each other since childhood days) started chatting about the terrible situation in their local community. Having heard news from their workers, friends, or local families being locked in their houses and being hungry! Most of them have not been able to work, and even when they are being paid, they couldn’t’ leave their homes to draw the money to buy the food without stumbling into trouble. There are families going without food for up to three days… They live in shacks of chipboard with a bucket for a toilet, no running water, no essentials, and everyone is talking about facing Covid-19

 

But instead of pondering on it for too long they realised that they could do something about it.  This group, consisting of Dylan Lightfoot, Chokka Trahms, Tobias Schroeder, Remi Peterson, Dijon Smith, Levi Herscovitz and Steven Sawyer are a bunch of highly organised and well-connected surfers who started working together and included other volunteers in the Jeffries Bay community to pull in as well. Chokka was already helping at the NPO assisting the homeless in the town, so he headed up the purchasing of the food, met the relevant authorities and planned the parcels.

The whole programme has come together so quickly!  Within a few days the word spread, and funds were flowing in freely.  R170 000 were raised in just two days! But the hurdle was that it takes 21 days to get the cash out of the Go get funding account. Fortunately, Spar was very supportive in creating an account for them in order to start shopping, suppling the goods at wholesale price and enabling them to pay it off as soon as the money reflects.

How does it work?

They joined hands with the municipality wards and other local NGO’s in determining the need in each area. This way it could be a fair and equal approach for all in need and each fund could focus on servicing their specific area.

The main packing hub is at the Pasta Co. in town and then some locals have opened their places (spare flats, bedrooms, garages etc) to become dedicated packing stations. For e.g. the Lightfoot boys and Stevie Sawyer teaming up to pack parcels in their flat.

Boxes have been collected from the local supermarkets and are recycled to pack the food parcels.  The boys shop and pick up the food from the store and then packing is planned in two hour shifts by local families volunteering. Each family has their own time slot to prevent contamination of the virus.

The food is stored and distributed by the Smhart Security vehicles and the surfers themselves. The challenge is to work together with all the relevant parties to ensure all the people in need receive a parcel and that some are not being double fed with others being left hungry to fend for themselves.

So far, they have fed 150 families, have secured enough funds to feed 2400 people for 7 days but the aim is to help 4000 people for 21 days!

What is in the parcel

A week’s food for a family of four consists of: 5kg maize, 2kg rice, 1 litre cooking oil, 4 tins baked beans, 2 tins of tomato-and-onion mix, stock, cup of soup, 2 toilet rolls, 1 bar of soap and 1 toothpaste.

“It would be amazing if we could add to bread, milk, fresh fruit and vegetables donations to this as well. We also require brown bags and boxes to pack up the parcel,” quoted the team.

How can you get involved?

To pack 3000 food parcels takes time and you need hands. Anyone can volunteer, if hygiene precautions are adhered to and the individual is healthy or not classified as vulnerable, can assist.

People can do more! Ryan Lightfoot and his mom have started a bread challenge as well.  It is so cheap to bake bread and most people have time now.  They baked their first eight loaves yesterday and it was distributed with the food parcels. If everyone bakes a few loaves of bread, cuts it up and takes it to a food parcel hub we could feed many.

They also turned their lounge table into a sewing factory.  “We have distributed so many masks now and we plan to continue,” says Ryan. For him this has been an interesting time to reflect and grow his hobbies apart from just surfing (starting veggie gardens, taking online courses, and helping the community)!

“Yes, it is a lot of work, it can be overwhelming and not look easy but at least we are trying and playing our part in being available. You can help by packing, put people in contact or donate – start something in your community! What will get us through this difficult time is not going to be shots and push-up challenges, but to unselfishly give of ourselves and our time,” echoes pro longboard surfer Stevie Sawyer.

With this initiative they assist and feed the poor while they have no work.  It has become a fight for survival amongst the poorest of poor.  Domestic workers, gardeners, taxi drivers, car guards, recycling picking and those who have casual jobs have all felt it.  Employers are not conducting business and as such they cannot always afford to pay staff.  As the lockdown continues, so does the desperation of the poor increases. Life will not return to normal (for everyone) soon. But if we all do our bit, we can get through this sooner.

 

Video credit: Ernst Ohlhoff 

Photo credit: Toby Schroeder

We want to inspire you to reach out where you can and find a way to get involved! You can check out their Insta account @letsfeedjbay and either contribute here or promote the fund. But more than that, you can feel motivated to ride a different wave during this time of lockdown by giving – your time, money, or support! And with everyone’s morale taking a shot by not scoring waves – it can lift us up by helping a brother or sister in need!

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