Photo Credit: Supplied

Thobeka Mduduma from Kwazakhele started a soup kitchen in her community to feed local children, and the project continues to help them to date; it just needs a little support to keep going.


Kwazakhele, South Africa (02 April 2024) – A hungry child crying in the street for bread changed the course of her life, and that of many others to follow.

Thobeka Mduduma, 65, was working as a domestic worker in Gqeberha at the time when the little girl’s cries in her neighbourhood of Kwazakhele touched her so deeply that she had to knock on the mother’s door to find out what was wrong with the child.

“Her mother said there was no money for bread, and I just cried because it looked like the mother wasn’t worried. I went to get bread and milk for the child and since that day I have never rested. There are many children that go hungry, and we do what we can to help them,” said Thobeka.

One of her employers at the time, Desire Perry, heard about the soup kitchen Thobeka started at her house in Kwazakhele, which she funded from her wages as a domestic worker.

“We started to make pamphlets and distributed it in my neighbourhood to support the soup kitchen, which was 25 years ago. Today, that same soup kitchen makes meals six days a week feeding 80 children,” said Desire.

Together Thobeka and Desire over the years grew the support for the soup kitchen. This included a donated container and equipment which enabled them to move the soup kitchen out of Thobeka’s family house into a shared community space.

Thobeka and Desiré

With Thobeka as chairperson and Desire as treasurer, the women registered the Sithandiwe NPO in 2011. The Xhosa word “Sithandiwe” means “We are loved” in English.

“A generation has been raised on that soup kitchen. At 48 years old, Thobeka went back to school and decided to get her matric and then studied further to become a qualified Grade R teacher.”

Under the umbrella of Sithandiwe NPO, two projects are currently being run to support the community of Kwazakhele, one is the Siyanqoba Soup Kitchen, and the other is Malukhanye Pre-School.

The preschool was opened in April 2017 at a second property and is run like a creche. Here Thobeka, who never had children of her own, spends most of her time – surrounded by pre-schoolers – providing in the learning needs and well-being of 32 children.

“The children love me, and they keep me going. We continue to trust God for help, especially with the soup kitchen since we get a very small subsidy from government which we sometimes get and sometimes we don’t get it,” said Thobeka.

Having overcome a recent health setback, Thobeka remains the heart and soul of the organisation; and is supported by local community members.

“The two projects are unique in that it is entirely run by the community, for the community. The ladies that cook in the soup kitchen do so voluntarily. The school is a loving and caring environment where Thobeka is a much-loved matriarch,” said Desire.

Desire, who had since immigrated to New Zealand, admits that sourcing funding for the NPO has its challenges.

“Over the years, it had been me, my family and friends who supported the projects. We have had a few corporate sponsors in the past. We are always in need of donations and support, in particular both the school and soup kitchen are currently in need of maintenance, especially on the outside,” said Desire.

It is both Desire and Thobeka’s wish for the projects to continue helping vulnerable children in Kwazakhele for many years to come.

“My heart will always remain here in South Africa. We often want to help, but we don’t always know how and what to do it. I can think of no better way to ensure that the children in the local community are protected and cared for, than by supporting these projects.”

If you would like to donate to or support the NPO, please contact Thobeka at 083 389 2987 or Desire on

Sources: Cindy Preller
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About the Author

Tyler Leigh Vivier is a writer for Good Things Guy.

Her passion is to spread good news across South Africa with a big focus on environmental issues, animal welfare and social upliftment. Outside of Good Things Guy, she is an avid reader and lover of tea.

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