The Sunday News
Robin Muchetu, Senior Reporter
AFTER being inundated by knocks on her gate from hungry children begging for stale bread from her sales, Mrs Hilda Kanosvamhira felt touched by that and decided to feed the hungry souls.
Mrs Kanosvamhira who has become a local hero in Hillside, Bulawayo, where she lives, now feeds more than 100 children and adults at her home on a daily basis. It is now known that Mrs Kanosvamhira feeds the needy and at about 12pm, children accompanied by their mothers start trickling to her gate where they queue in an orderly fashion observing social distancing, plate and spoon in hand as they await to see what their guardian angel would have prepared for that day.
Sunday News visited the home on Friday morning and witnessed the spectacle as people swarmed her home to get a meal for the day. Mrs Kanosvamhira, a mother of five, cooks the food at the back of her home on an open fire assisted by her daughter Nellie who completed her Masters Degree in Development Studies at the National University of Science and Technology in Bulawayo. Her sister Mrs Irene Manhovo also chips in regularly.
“I used to sell bread here and people would buy so when things got tough following the lockdown, I would have people coming to ask for rejects or even stale bread that they could toast and eat as there was no food at their homes. As time went by, the mothers would come and ask to do odd jobs for me and I pay them with food. That is when I decided to cook a meal and feed the children,” she said. She started by feeding 20 children, the number grew to 56 then now she feeds 119 children daily. Asked on how she funds her kitchen, she said she is using money from her children’s savings.
“I started to cook on 1 April 2020, I took bus fare I had saved for my two children as schools are closed now, I bought 60kgs of mealie-meal, four litres of cooking oil and cabbages and started this scheme. As I was feeding them, they would return in the evenings saying they are hungry again so I felt I needed to cook twice a day to ensure the children are happy. So, I need to ensure these children are fed adequately twice a day,” she said.
Mrs Kanosvamhira, was also motivated by her daughter who was doing research on homeless and vulnerable people.
“My daughter, while she was doing her research on street children when she was at Nust, would always share with me her findings at university. She would visit the outskirts of Bulawayo and see vulnerable people and I always wished that I could visit the places and assist.
However, if you are destined to help you will always find a way, I realised I could help those who were very near me and when the opportunity arrived, I took it and felt it was God’s signal,” she said.
Mrs Kanosvamhira has been digging deep into her pockets by buying mealie-meal using foreign currency.
“Mealie-meal has been a challenge as I have been buying it for US$4 per 10kg and it has been straining me. My daughter assists in securing the vegetables. My friends and neighbours have also come through in supporting this initiative and I’m glad to say since 1 April 2020, I have never skipped a day without feeding the children and their mothers,” she said.
Mrs Manhovo who assists in the initiative said they initially started by helping random people.
“I come here to assist Mrs Kanosvamhira and I also chip in with whatever I will have to ensure that the children are fed daily. “We started by going to assist the aged, widowed and orphans around our community. We would take vegetables, mealie-meal, sugar and other things to assist whenever we could. As time moved things became hard for many people around us hence the initiative to assist children coming to ask for stale bread at this kitchen was born,” she said.
Mrs Kanosvamhira said she would be grateful if Government could support the feeding scheme.
“I would want the Government and all powers that be to assist in giving me food to cook for these children and their mothers ukuze imbiza kagogo ingavali (so that granny does not stop cooking). If I tell these people that they can no longer have a meal here, it would break their hearts because they depend on me. I also would like to get firewood so that I can use it to cook. I have some arable land here where I can grow vegetables and sustain the project but the challenge is that I have no water, if I had a borehole, I would grow my own vegetables to feed the children,” she said.
Beneficiaries who feed from the home are children from Hillside and neighbouring areas whose parents did odd jobs in people’s gardens, airtime and vegetable vendors who could not continue work following lockdown regulations that prohibited them from conducting their business.
However, lady luck smiled at the ladies as a Harare based organisation, Mubatirapamwe Trust heard their plight and assisted with a consignment of food stuff.