A group of volunteers in Port Alfred are making a huge difference in the small town through their Facebook page Ndlambe Lockdown Support Group.
From making masks to distributing food parcels and setting up pet adoptions, the group is now creating tiny vegetable gardens in drums for families.
The non-profit organisation encourages locals to reach out and ask for help.
While some of the pleas for help are heartbreaking, the response to these cries is a shining light in uncertain times.
The group’s founder, Chris Stylianou, who is not a stranger to charity work, said he had established the page in March in response to the hardships faced by many poor people during the lockdown.
“Having lived in Port Alfred before and knowing the high rate of unemployment in the area, I called a couple of my friends to assist me.”
To ensure transparency, Stylianou is using a local wholesaler’s account for cash donations.
To date, the fund has supplied more than 6,000 food parcels and has raised R1.3m, in addition to some people dropping off donations at their local Spar.
“We have had the most incredible experience, especially because I have made sure that this organisation is kept apolitical and non-religious, however, many churches have supported us.
“Some of the biggest donations range from two 40-ton trucks full of potatoes, a truckload of oranges, pineapples, milk and a R40,000 donation.
“One of our concerns is to not create a dependency … what we are busy with at the moment is the implementation of a garden and our food garden project will be for individuals,” he said.
Explaining what the project entailed, Stylianou said individuals would be given a food grade drum that had its own worm farm, which would regenerate the soil.
“We were also donated the usage of an app by a company called Green Fingers Mobile from Cape Town.
“The app was initially used to monitor small farmers that were given trees but it has been modified so that we can track our donors and their progress.
“This has allowed us to map our donations so that we know what the needs are.”
Stylianou said some of the youth in the community would also be trained on how to tend a garden.
He said other members of the Port Alfred community had pitched in by sewing masks and beanies.
“The ladies that have made the masks I don’t think they realise the impact that they have had in keeping the Covid-19 numbers in the area low.”
One of the women who has contributed to sewing more than 4,000 masks, Maria Lowe, said more volunteers were needed to assist as the number of cases surged in the province.
“In the past we were able to put in two masks in each food parcel, but as lockdown has been lifted people have gone back to work and our production has lessened.
“We have fabric and money to buy the elastic and any shape that the maker wants is acceptable,” she said.
Also supplying the Port Alfred Clinic, Lowe said this had been the most touching aspect of the project.
“We often see the people coming in the clinic with dirty masks and the nurses are now able to educate them on how to wear and maintain them.
“We have also written little notes inside in isiXhosa that is meant to teach the recipients about the masks,” Lowe said.