Giving back to your community is a huge undertaking, particularly when you are burdened with your own personal responsibilities while doing it full-time.
However, this notion has not gone unchallenged by young community activists such as Asavela Peko, the founder of the Asevela Peko Foundation.
Careers Portal recently caught up with the 31-year-old to gain more insights into the operations, challenges, successes, and future aspirations of this impactful initiative.
The Asevela Peko Foundation is a community-driven organisation that strives to make a difference in the lives of vulnerable individuals. Established in May 2020, the foundation primarily operates a feeding scheme in Delft, which provides nutritious meals to those in need.
By serving meals across its respective region of operation, the foundation has become a lifeline for many communities, especially during the challenging times brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Being the driving force behind the foundation, Peko acknowledges the challenges of juggling personal commitments with running the organization. While currently unemployed and focusing on the foundation full-time,
Peko previously dedicated every available moment outside of work to fulfilling the foundation's objectives. This unwavering commitment demonstrates Peko's passion for making a positive impact on the community.
His motivation to initiate the foundation stems from a deep-rooted passion for serving the community. Recognizing the pressing needs and challenges faced by underprivileged individuals, Peko was driven to act.
The foundation's interventions are guided by a keen understanding of the community's patterns, people, and urgent requirements. Regular engagement with community members, through conversations and open dialogues, allows the foundation to remain responsive to evolving needs.
To ensure the efficient and effective distribution of food to the community, the Foundation has transitioned from operating as a distribution centre to a community-based approach.
Local residents bring their own bowls, and meals are prepared and served by volunteers, including Peko's mother and seven other committed women from the community. This inclusive approach fosters a sense of ownership and community spirit while optimizing resources for maximum impact.
Running the feeding scheme has not been without its challenges. The foundation has encountered threats of closure due to limited resources and faced difficulties in securing regular gas refills for cooking. Moreover, as lockdown restrictions eased, some volunteers shifted their focus to personal pursuits.
"At some point, we faced the threat of fewer volunteers when the lockdown was finally over, as people were turning away to job hunt, working and focusing on shaping their lives."
Additionally, local businesses have not always been supportive, and certain community members have struggled to prioritize sharing in the face of their own hardships. Despite these obstacles, the foundation has remained resilient, resourceful, and adaptable.
The Foundation also actively collaborates with other soup kitchens, organizations, and volunteers in the community. The foundation offers support, mentorship, and recommendations to other initiatives while maintaining a close-knit relationship with its volunteers.
"We inspired, and helped a lot of NPOs with kitchens in saving their kitchens when they were threatened with closure and we were instrumental in the formation of the Food Relief Alliance of South Africa that I used to serve in as a Board Deputy Chairperson for over a year"
Although cooperation with local councillors has been limited, the foundation has successfully engaged with the public through various avenues such as local meetings and public events.
Measuring Impact and Success:
To measure the impact of the feeding scheme, the foundation employs several metrics and indicators. Detailed registers are maintained, conversations with beneficiaries provide valuable insights, and individual preferences are considered.
Since April 2020, they have served over 100,000 meals across the Western Cape and supported more than 30 soup kitchens and nonprofits in over 20 communities. Their impact extends beyond their immediate community, as they have been instrumental in the formation of the Food Relief Alliance of South Africa.
The soup kitchen currently operates Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays with meals served at 2 pm during these days. These methods enable the foundation to assess the extent of support provided and understand which areas of the community are being reached effectively.
Peko remains committed to serving the community and hopes that the government will recognize the work of Covid-19 front liners and honour their contributions.