Delft woman supports matrics with meals and hugs

Written by Yazeed Kamaldien

A half hour drive from central Cape Town, an unemployed resident in isolated Delft has opened her cupboards to cook hearty meals for matric pupils writing their final exam.

It is the third year that Louise Hendricks, unemployed since September this year, has been ensuring that pupils from Voorbrug Senior Secondary School in Delft do not write their exam on an empty stomach.

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MEALS AND MOTIVATION: Louise Hendricks, an unemployed Delft resident, talks to matric pupils at her daughter’s home where she has prepared meals for them before their exams. Picture Yazeed Kamaldien

Delft is a low-income area synonymous with crime, gangs and associated social challenges. This motivated Hendricks to make a difference.

In 2013, she cooked meals for six pupils, including her daughter who was in matric.

Last year she managed to cook for 20 pupils and this year she hosted up to 51 children on some days.

“I went to the school and they gave me the names of 30 children (to host). But at the end of the day we had more. We could offer them a meal every morning before they went to write the exam,” said Hendricks.

“I have a team of four other women who help and my daughter coordinates things. People in the community have helped a lot. Some have given money and others gave eggs or cheese.”

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The team from Delft who are helping matric pupils with social support while writing their final exam. Picture Yazeed Kamaldien

On Thursday, when Weekend Argus interviewed Hendricks, she was serving pupils lunch that had been sponsored by a caterer from Delft.

“If they write exams in the afternoon then we serve lunch. We want them to feel good when they leave here,” said Hendricks.

“We pray with them. We hug them because that could mean so much to them. We do it with love.”

Sascha-Lee Schouw, one of the pupils at the lunch, said he was from a household where his father was unemployed and his mother’s salary was low.

“Unemployment is a big issue. A lot of our people are poor and don’t have jobs. Houses are overcrowded,” said Schouw.

“We are a family of five children and my grandmother also lives with us. We live in a two-bedroom house. Some mornings there is nothing to eat.”

Schouw said Hendricks had a “very good idea” to assist matric pupils.

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SOCIAL SUPPORT: Louise Hendricks, an unemployed Delft resident, chats to matric pupils before they head off to write their exam. Hendricks has been cooking meals for matric pupils in Delft since 2013. Picture Yazeed Kamaldien

“This shows that not all people are bad. There are people trying to bring change in the community and stop gangsterism. They want to reach out to youngsters who are in danger,” said Schouw.

“We need to take care and help matriculants. Most of the day we go to the exam with nothing in our stomachs and can’t concentrate on what we are doing.”

Schouw added that it was normal for young people, such as himself, to witness murders and gang violence regularly.

“If you walk around you must look over both shoulders to see when something is coming your way. Even if you are not a gangster, they can still harm you. We have many gangsters at our school.”

His classmate Robyn-Kelly Hawes said the meals and encouragement from Hendricks have “made the exam less stressful”.

Voorbrug acting principal Glenville Jonker said Hendricks has had a “positive impact”.

“This is a good intervention especially for learners with poverty at home. It helps them to write the exam. It gives them more energy,” said Jonker.

He said the school wants pupils to ultimately “help themselves”.

“They need to see that they can also give. They can get involved in the area. They can help somebody to read or write or assist them with school work,” he said.

“We need to build a support system to encourage them.”

Hendricks’ daughter Carol-Ann Johnson, an assistant librarian at Kuils River library, has opened her house to host the breakfasts and lunches for matric pupils.

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DARE TO DREAM: Carol-Ann Johnson, a librarian in Kuils River, has helped her mother Louise Hendricks coordinate a project that provides meals and support to matric pupils in Delft. They want to expand their project. Picture Yazeed Kamaldien

“I’m a community person. For me, it’s about how can I make a difference in somebody’s life. I can’t just live a normal life. I have to get involved,” said Johnson of her involvement.

“I also want to show the kids that it’s possible to rise above the circumstances. I grew up in Delft and didn’t have everything. But I want to show them they can rise above what is happening around them everyday.

“In Delft, I see how people don’t have food. I can even see somebody selling drugs. But their dreams should not be limited to their circumstances.”

Johnson said it was worth the effort waking up 6am to prepare breakfast with her mom and other volunteers for matric pupils.

“You can see when they leave here how relaxed they are,” she said.

Hendricks and Johnson want to assist all matric pupils in Delft in the future.

“Our space at my home is limited so we can only accommodate so many. Our dream is to have it at the school and then at all the schools in the area. We would need funding for that,” said Johnson.

“We also want to educate pupils about studying after high school. We want to connect them to people so they can know their options. We want them to know where they can study and get bursaries.”

Schouw and Hawes both want to study teaching. Schouw said he has applied for a bursary for next year and will also try to find a holiday job once exams are done next week.

“I would like to find a job maybe at a restaurant. I’ll do dishes or clean,” he said.

Hawes said she has a holiday job lined up and will also work next year to “save for my studies”.

“Education is very expensive. I want to use the time to save money so that I can pay for my university studies,” she said.

“I want to be a teacher. It’s what I would like to do. My English teacher inspired me to be a teacher. It excites me.”

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About Yazeed Kamaldien

Self-employed journalist and photographer from South Africa.

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