Over the weekend I went with my friend Michelle to Krugersdorp — an outer suburb on Joburg’s West Rand. (You may remember Michelle as the proprietor of the Junkie Charity Shop, and former human to the Melville Cat.) Michelle was donating a large potjie (Afrikaans for “stew”) pot to a feeding scheme in Krugersdorp, and she asked me to come along to take photos.
Neither Michelle nor I knew very much about where we were going. But eventually we found our way to a plot of land with a big, boarding-house-like building called Villa Gloria. Virtually every inch of land around the big house was occupied by tiny wooden dwellings.
Villa Gloria is home to a non-profit organization called the God Disciples Foundation. There are more than 300 people living there, including 120 children, paying rent on a sliding scale. The Foundation also runs a creche (nursery school) for the small children and babies at Villa Gloria.
Daniel Geyer, the owner of Villa Gloria, describes the property as a kind of halfway house. But some of the residents have lived there for years. Many of Villa Gloria’s residents are elderly, disabled, survivors of domestic violence, and/or recovering addicts. Others have faced homelessness or simply fallen on hard times.
We dropped off Michelle’s cooking pot and food donations and then took a walk around the property with Porra and Vicky du Preez, who run the non-profit organization. Porra and Vicky introduced us to several of the residents.
During the lockdown, the Foundation has been trying to provide at least one meal a day for Villa Gloria residents (when funding allows) — hence the need for the large potjie pot.
If you’re anything like me, you might be thinking these aren’t the faces you’re used to seeing in stories about poverty in South Africa. Nearly everyone living at Villa Gloria is white. I feel awkward acknowledging this obvious fact — and I’m not sure what to say beyond simply pointing it out — but I also feel it would be strange not to acknowledge it. Things often don’t look the way we expect them to in South Africa (or anywhere for that matter), and this country’s inequality manifests itself in many forms.
The God Disciples Foundation is in desperate need of funds to continue feeding the residents of Villa Gloria each day. Obviously most people there are living hand to mouth, and most lost their jobs during the early phases of lockdown. Some, but not all, have returned to work. The future is totally uncertain.
Incidentally, Daniel told me the government has come to the settlement more than once during lockdown to screen for COVID-19. Thus far no one has been affected, and everyone at Villa Gloria wears a mask when leaving the property.
If you would like to deliver food to Villa Gloria, the address is:
25 Engelbrecht Street
Porra du Preez: 076-065-5900
If you’d like to donate, the bank details are:
Acc name: God Disciples Foundation
Branch code: 01584141
Standard Bank Key West