Nhlanhla Lucky Mdlalose is a is currently a part of the Salesian Youth Ministry team at Bosco Youth Centre in Walkerville, Johannesburg. He is from Dobsonville, Soweto and alongside his youth group, they are doing all they can to assist those most vulnerable during the COVID-19 pandemic.
It is currently Winter in Johannesburg. The snowfall of winter makes it a beautiful season, and cosiness abounds for those who can afford to snug up in warm clothes in heated houses. For all destitute people - families, children and elderly people, it is a dreadful time. They are the longest three months of the year by far.
Many children in the poorest areas where the Salesians work must go through the winter season with blankets that are torn and have holes, yet they still share those same blankets with their siblings. Some have no blankets at all. For all of these families, it’s difficult enough to afford food, let alone new blankets. So, they shiver long into the nights.
There are children who get into fights with their siblings over a jersey. The elderly suffer just as much, living in shacks that have raw cement floors, holes in the walls and broken windows.
Nhlanhla often asks himself: “Where do they find the strength that they need to overcome all of this?”
Looking at all this suffering and need, the youth of Dobsonville and Snake Park have taken it upon themselves to be the change needed to give these poor families the strength, helping them up by providing blankets, warm clothing and cooked food to those who need it most around the Snake Park township.
Nutritious meals are one of the absoulute most basic needs of any living person.
Starting on 24 May 2020, two months after the lockdown and at a time when people were becoming increasingly desperate, the youth began to prepare warm meals every Sunday, preparing vegetable soup, pap, bread and other hot items. So far, their soup kitchen has fed more than 3,000 people in Snake Park Township in Soweto!
To be ready to feed everyone by 10 am, the 15 youth members gather in the early hours of the morning and begin preparing nutritious meals. Mostly they use their own funds to get all the soup ingredients; there are, however, some generous people in the area who occasionally donate something.
The youth recognize that feeding the hungry only addresses part of the needs for the families of Snake Park Township. Blankets and warm blankets will also go a long way to alleviating the bitter winter cold. They are therefore also appealing for winter clothes for children, women, and men, including tracksuits, jerseys, long-sleeved vests, jackets, warm shoes, pajamas, trousers and sanitary towels.
Salesian Brother Clarence Watts, Delegate for Social Communication of the Southern Africa Vice Province (AFM), speaks about Nhlanhla and his team and says: “He is a truly inspiring young man, together with his team of youth. There is no Salesian presence in Soweto, but Nhlanhla has brought the Salesian spirit of generosity and kindness to the most vulnerable youth in Soweto. Don Bosco would be very proud of him.”