Carel writes: Wow, but there are some amazing people in this world! And we’re lucky that our paths cross with many of them!

We’re extremely fortunate to count Zaida Mia as part of our network. Zaida joined our friends at Ami Underwriting Managers as head of operations last month. She joins the leadership team of Christelle Colman and Kurt Solomon as this fledgling business gets started.

Ami’s purpose is to be “your insurance friend”, and Zaida is the embodiment of this motto. She and a group of friends and family have started a charitable organisation called Gracious Givers Sadaqa that feeds hundreds of people on the Cape Flats every couple of weeks.

We found out quite by accident that Zaida does this amazing community work. She is very humble about it, but graciously agreed to write a blog for us about the work she does in these impoverished communities and how it all started. It really makes for interesting reading and goes to show that one person really can make a huge difference in the lives of many.

I encourage everyone to start helping others – even if it’s just by doing one small thing. Life is hard and we should be doing more for each other. I am sure Zaida’s blog will provide you with the inspiration to do so.

I grew up on the Cape Flats. Anyone who is familiar with the areas of Manenberg and Mitchells Plain will understand that life was ‘different’; turns out you only really see how different it is when you’re out of that environment – and this usually happens much later in life… if ever.

Growing up in areas like these you are surrounded by and exposed to things that would make you incredibly sad and others fearful. But this was our normal, we lived it and survived it.

Most of the people I grew up with still live in the same conditions and are not coping with the little they have; they are not ok. Basic needs cannot be met as they simply cannot draw water from stone. They work hard and long hours to just get by, and buying essentials is considered a luxury. We have a huge problem in our communities, and this is part of why we do what we do.

There are very few people who know about what we’ve started and this is the first time it is being shared. There are many reasons why I don’t share it. Mainly, I really don’t feel this is enough and it doesn’t even scratch the surface of what can be done. But it’s a start, and I’m hoping we can do more, not just providing a meal, but providing opportunity and letting those young minds see what’s really out there.

Our parents (bless them) did the best they could while working. To this day I wonder how on Earth they managed.

My family is not wealthy and yet I feel privileged, and I feel guilty for this privilege…

Many years ago, a friend mentioned that she helps at a feeding scheme in her area (a poor community, poor in everything not just money) which is very close to where I grew up. I’m sure everyone has experienced the need to help someone in some way, and this is how it started for me.

Many feel the urge to help when you hear a story. Your first instinct is really to help. Then you start thinking of ways to do it, and eventually it ends up being a quick text “send me banking details” and you pop over a couple of rands and that’s it. You may follow up and ask how it went, etc., but generally this is what we do. And it’s great that we can, because this is the only way we can.

Many don’t have time because our jobs are busy. We are raising kids, juggling school and commitments and that small bit we contribute to a feeding scheme is enough, but deep down you always have that feeling…”I want to do more” but just never “get around to it”.

In reality there are people who are hungry every day; there are mothers and fathers who work hard and are still not able to provide the basics to their families. We read about it, see it, and sometimes its our families who hustle for the next meal.

So, this friend sent me a little poster made by her son with feeding scheme bank details, and a note to say that they cook a few pots of food at the mosque the night before Eid and I am welcome to pop in to help them and see what it’s about.

I remember sitting at the airport in Johannesburg after being there for a full week. I was exhausted and needed to sleep. On top of this it was the last day of Ramadan and we had been fasting for a month.

I landed back in Cape Town a little after 7pm and still needed to arrange food and desserts as we had Eid the next day. My kids fasted too, and we try to make Eid special for them. I remember driving home from the airport thinking, my kids ate well every night, had their Eid clothes bought a while back and they’d get to spend a full day with family and friends enjoying the Eid celebrations.

I decided to go to the mosque to help my friend for an hour or so, “do my bit to give back” and then go home to sort out my family.

I arrived at the mosque around 9.30pm, there were four or five pots to be cooked, and this took hours of preparation. 100-litre pots take a whole lot of ingredients that all need to be washed, peeled, rinsed and then cooked! I ended up staying all night and we finished cooking at around 4am.

It was hot and steamy inside as we had all these pots on gas stoves and the doors were closed. It was stormy outside. I needed some air, though, and to make a call to my husband to let him know I had finished and would be leaving soon.

I went outside to cool down, take a breath of fresh air – and it was freezing cold. Standing there were people waiting around outside with bowls and kids with them, asking if the food was ready.

Kids up and outside after 4am waiting in a line outside for food in the cold broke my heart.

I imagined my family in this situation… and at that moment I knew I’d be back to help my friend cook and feed her community.

The following year I recruited my kids and my sister, and told a few people about what happens the night before Eid. Many more contributed and every year we showed up to help for that one night.

So every year during Ramadan I’d circulate the poster for my friend, show up to help and that would be it, until the following year …

My dad was always very proud that we showed up each year to do our bit at the mosque and give back. He was a driver and always contributed to this initiative with the little he had.

I constantly felt that more can be done; once a year wasn’t much.

I kept wondering what about the other 364 days. This was and always is a topic in my circle of friends. We always speak of how hard it was for us growing up the way we did, sometimes with nothing to eat. We’re always talking to our kids about how fortunate they are to never have needed to go to the feeding scheme line during breaks to get their first meal for the day, and how they should appreciate how much they have.

After my dad passed away, I bought my own 100-litre pot, a three-plate high pressure gas burner, buckets and strainers and some basics to start cooking more regularly and whenever I had time.

I sent a picture to my sister and to my close friends via WhatsApp and told them I’d be cooking one pot to donate in the area my parents lived, and this would be done in honour of my dad.

In my mind I thought it would be an annual thing, but little did I know that my amazing group of friends and family would all come on board to make this possible as often as we do.

It is now six months later, and we have cooked every alternate weekend since that first pot. We manage to provide a meal to about 250 people with each cook we do.

Our last two pots were donated to people in the area, where many of the gracious givers team grew up – an old age home in the area, a small orphanage, and the kids from the informal areas around us.

We are a small group of like-minded people with very similar stories to tell. My home is open to anyone when we cook and this is how our charity, Gracious Givers Sadaqa, was born…

We have a WhatsApp group, which is how we co-ordinate each cook. We send out a list of what we’d like to make. Anyone in the group can suggest a drop off point.

We opened a bank account which our treasurer manages and tracks what we spend.

I would love to send a big shout out to the team at Gracious Givers Sadaqa: The team: Naz and Imran Khaki, Abdurgmaan and Kashiefa Meyer (our treasurer), Shahima and Nabeel Nordien, Weshall and Anwar Benjamin, my sister Nuraan and her husband Ashraf Matthee, my mom Shihaam, along with my husband Rashied and kids Tariq and Mishka. Thank you for all you do to help. Our communities are better with you in them.