American actor, singer and comedian, Jeff Bridges once said: “One of the greatest feelings in the world is knowing that we as individuals can make a difference. Ending hunger is a goal that is literally within our grasp.”
While the COVID-19 pandemic has literally brought the world and every nation to a halt, not knowing where your next meal comes from, remains a stark reality for many. Close to a billion people – one-eighth of the world’s population – still live in hunger. And, Namibia, is not exempted from this truth. Dallas Orr, Executive Chef at the Strand Hotel Swakopmund (SHS) – one of the O&L Leisure establishments which is also part of the Ohlthaver & List (O&L) Group portfolio – understands the repercussions of this reality all too well and saw the proverbial silver-lining presented by the national lockdown as a result of the dreaded COVID-19 disease. The tourism sector has been dealt a knock-out blow which subsequently led to the sector, including Strand Hotel Swakopmund, having to cease operations for the duration of the lockdown.
This has however not deterred Chef Dallas and the SHS team in partnership with its sister-company, Pick n Pay (PnP) Swakopmund, from bringing hope to the less fortunate. On Friday, 31 March 2020, - in true O&L spirit and purpose of “Creating a future, enhancing life” - the duo decided to reach out to the children in the DRC informal settlement of Swakopmund during the lockdown, through Ann’s Angels and Christina’s Soup Kitchen who have over the years been supporting close to 500 underprivileged children in the DRC community.
Ann’s Angels normally feeds over 265 children every Wednesday, depending on supplies while Christina’s Kitchen also feeds more than 200 children on a weekly basis. The DRC informal settlement has no electricity while water is sourced from a community tap. The ladies normally prepare meals on fire and very seldom on gas stove. Living in informal settlements has a huge impact on mental as well as physical health as the disadvantaged are particularly at risk and considered to be more vulnerable.
The Strand Hotel Swakopmund has built a strong relationship with the soup kitchens as it has been supporting it over the years and, what started off as an idea by Chef Dallas, inspired PnP to step in. Last year, the Strand Hotel donated more than 10,000 servings to the needy kids in the community. Says Chef Dallas: “We pretty much raided the pantry of Farmhouse Deli, Ocean Cellar and the Brewer and Butcher of all perishable and dry foods and got the creative juices flowing by using all that was available to make a heart-warming soup”. He further goes on to say: “We visited 2 lovely ladies today who feed the needy kids in the DRC area of Swakopmund. Due to the food supply delivered today, we decided that it is in everyone’s best interest to rather give them the tools they need to provide the magic they do. We are pleased to have had the support of officers from the Mondesa Police Station to ensure everyone’s safety and assist us in keeping on-lookers at bay. Trust me, we needed it”.
Anna, with the assistance of the Mondesa Police, was able to go door-to-door to the homes of her angels and managed to feed more than 200 children yesterday. She says: “Thanks to the food supplied, I was able to fill their tummies while protecting them from crowds.”
PnP also donated clothing worth N$30,000 in support of this initiative. Angelo Morkel, PnP Regional Manager confirmed that the clothing will continue to be distributed in different areas in Swakopmund every week while the need will be assessed as they go along. The value of the dry goods, toiletries and hygiene products will only be confirmed at the end of the lockdown. “We know that the little we give is much more than many people in our community have at home, and it may just be what they need to survive the lockdown”, Morkel concluded.
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought so much uncertainty and anxiety in these unprecedented times - all aspects of life have been affected and business as usual is no longer relevant. It goes without saying, and adding to what Jeff Bridges said, hów we respond to these trying times, cán make a huge difference. As a nation united, we can conquer hunger and disease.