Many people living near the farms of the Philippi Horticultural Area depend on them for cheap or free vegetables. A Lavender Hill soup kitchen thrives on it.
It is Saturday morning on St Thomas Street in Lavender Hill. Two barefoot children are fighting on the road while a man, apparently drunk, sways past. Then out of an open garage, Ralph Bouwers appears. He says a few gentle words to the brawling boys and gives them a hug. He tells them that soup is being prepared and that they will get food soon.
Bouwers started the Guardians of the National Treasure to provide food, love and care for children and elderly people living in Lavender Hill. With Janet Gie, the manager, he makes soup twice a week for several hundred children and a growing number of elderly people.
While Bouwers checks the simmering contents of the soup pot in the garage, Gie starts cutting the vegetables for the next soup.
“We don’t have enough money for more gas [burners], so we have to cook the soups one after the other,” says Ralph.
Fortunately, Nabeel Brinkhuis, a farmer in the nearby Philippi Horticultural Area (PHA), provides their kitchen with vegetables every week. On Fridays, Bouwers drives out to the farm and collects the cut-offs and fresh vegetables Nabeel gives him.
“We would not know how to feed all these people without Nabeel’s help,” says Bouwers.
“My work is all over Lavender Hill. I grew up in this community and I want it to change, to become a good place for young and old,” he says. He delivers soup to some of the homes in the area where elderly people and people with disability live.
“My aim is to feed children and old people every single day of the week. I can’t do that without free vegetables,” says Bouwer. “Giving them meals in a safe and loving environment restores dignity and gives them a little bit of peace.”
He believes hunger fuels anger and substance abuse.
“Can you imagine being a teenager [here]? You’re cold, hungry and lonely, and then someone offers you a [drug] pipe with the promise you will feel better? And you do [feel better] – for a little while. And in no time, you are hooked and prepared to do anything for those who give you a feeling of belonging somewhere and for the little piece of ‘freedom’ you get through [taking] a drug.”