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Selling dolls for Sammy’s Kitchen

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What started as a fun pastime for Belinda Daniels, a South African emigrant in Australia, has resulted in the establishment of a soup kitchen that’s feeding hundreds of people in Orange Farm, Gauteng.

Daniels, a generous donor to The Angel Network, started crocheting clothes for dolls as a form of recreation during COVID-19. The dressed dolls ended up flying off the shelves and raising almost R100 000 for Sammy’s Kitchen, a soup kitchen named after her son, in the informal settlement of Tjovitjo in Orange Farm.

The kitchen was set up by The Angel Network, founded by Absa Jewish Achiever 2021 Humanitarian Award winner Glynne Wolman, and has been feeding 600 people every week.

It was set up in memory of Daniels’ late son, Sam, who tragically died eight years ago at the age of 21. A plaque in his memory will soon be unveiled, and T-shirts sporting his photograph and name will be given to volunteers.

For Daniels, this is a bittersweet initiative because she would rather have her son with her than an initiative named after him. However, she says, she knows that “he would love it. He was just so kind”.

The initiative, says Daniels, was “really just a matter of fate”. A friend of hers gave her a lot of dolls which Daniels and her group crocheted clothing for to raise money for charity. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, this initiative didn’t take off, so Daniels showed the clothed dolls to her friend, another ex-South African, Louise Fisher, who was running a Christmas-present drive in Australia for those who had suffered during the pandemic.

“Louise is an advocate for charity and The Angel Network, and she said we should sell them,” recalls Daniels. Daniels didn’t believe that people would buy them, but Fisher was convinced otherwise.

They both wanted to use the dolls to raise money for those in need back in South Africa and to do it to honour Daniels’ son. So, Fisher stumbled on the idea for Sammy’s Kitchen.

“When we had R80 000, the kitchen was feeding about 15 000 children,” says Fisher.

When they had raised R90 000, they could provide 24 000 men, women, and children with at least one meal. Alternatively, Sammy’s Kitchen could have chosen to supply about 1 000 meals a week to support 200 people for 24 weeks with one hot, hearty meal a day, five days a week.

“It’s going to feed people for at least a year,” says Fisher. “It’s just been an incredible project. Everyone in Australia knows about it. We’ve got money from America and Canada and everywhere. Basically, from absolutely nothing, we will get to R100 000.”

Daniels has been overwhelmed by the communities who supported the project from all over the world. “The dolls flew out the door. I could hardly keep up with the crocheting. I’ve done about 120 dolls. A lot of people donated money without actually wanting the doll. Those dolls we gave to Australian needy children.”

They have been inundated with requests for dolls via social media, their marketing platform. Though the majority have sold in Melbourne, some have been sold in a Sydney-based shop. Another talented ex-South African, meanwhile, made an exclusive range of girl dolls that are being sold at La Luna Boutique in Vaucluse, Sydney, for the same cause.

Daniels and Fisher have loved seeing photos from parents and grandparents sharing the joy on the faces of their kids enjoying their new companion. Daniels is waiting for a new batch of dolls, and hopes to keep the kitchen going.

“I’m passionate about helping South Africa,” says Fisher. “I travel there a lot and volunteer if I can. I work very closely on different projects. I love helping. I love Africa.”

  • If you want to buy a doll, donate, or get involved in helping others, message Louise Fisher on her Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/louise.r.fisher

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