Food assistance was never a big focus of the work of Raise a Smile in the past, but when a crisis hits, sometimes it is the best use of our funds. We always made small contributions when the need arose, which started when a mother died during childbirth and the aunt of the baby came to us to help feed the new born with milk formula. We soon realized that the family did not have enough food themselves and arranged for them to collect basic foodstuff from a local shop.
We have followed this model of food assistance with a small number of recipients until January 2020, when the need to increase our support came about. At the beginning of the year the worst floods in living memory burst the banks of the Musandile River and devastated maize crops in the area. We were able to help some farmers at the time with seeds and fertilizer to replant, but many were left without any food source. We therefore started providing monthly food parcels to the families who were most severely affected. The numbers rose and then COVID hit us on the head too! In our area in the East of Zambia we so far had no recorded cases of COVID infections and Zambia has a low count, BUT the economic toll has been great as the income of much of the population is dependent on tourism, which has come to a grinding halt!
Many people are reaching starvation levels, and we now find ourselves in a new position of providing food every month to 56 families in dire need.
We personally check the circumstances of each applicant, and then introduce them to the local shopkeeper who allows them to collect one 20kg bag of maize, 20 packets of soy pieces and other necessities of their choice on the 15th of each month. This puts the food fund money in the hands of the local businesses, who in turn, support dependents. It also ensures that the supported families get some protein and allows them the dignity of “shopping” in their local shops for necessities.
Our hope and vision is that most of our families will be able to support themselves, after the next harvest and once tourism picks up in the future.
We cannot thank our international supporters enough. The kind individuals, the small organizations and our good Rotarian friends in Meerbusch and California. You are indeed making a difference and it is a privilege to be the cog in the wheel in Mfuwe that can co-ordinate it here on the ground.