What makes your job worthwhile? #2

Masooda Petersen has been the Kitchen Manager at the Service Dining Rooms for over four years now, and leaves home just before 06h00 every day so she can get to work on time. She says she doesn’t ever want to be late because there are always hungry people waiting, and she doesn’t want to disappoint them.


What makes Masooda’s work worthwhile for her is that she loves cooking, and especially likes having to be creative with whatever ingredients are available on a particular day. “We don’t always know what kind of donations we are going to receive, so we have to be flexible. I like making something from nothing.”

She is responsible for three permanent staff and the volunteers who help in the kitchen. “One of the best things about my job now is that the Operations Manager [Karen] actually works with us, we feel we are all part of a team.” Karen herself told me that, when she had to go on leave recently to visit her elderly father in Johannesburg, she could relax about what might or might not be happening at SDR because she knew that she’d left things in good hands ūüôā


Masooda makes great breyani. Ask me, I’ve had some! Now I just need the recipe…


Safe Spaces for homeless people

City of Cape Town to provide eight new spaces for homeless people

grand parade

This article by Maxwell Roeland was published recently by Groundup, a news agency focused on reporting news that is in the public interest, with an emphasis on the human rights of vulnerable communities. It’s about stories and news that make a difference.

This is of particular interest to the Service Dining Rooms, where we see homeless people every day without access to basic facilities and any kind of private or safe space.

What are your thoughts about the City of Cape Town’s implementation of this concept?

What makes your job worthwhile?

Is a job just a job? Or is a job more than a “job” for some of us?

There are five permanent staff members at the Service Dining Rooms, and each one is going to take the opportunity to think about and express what it means to him or her to work for an NGO, and the SDR in particular.

I’m starting with Karen Cain, the Operations Manager since March 2017, because it was over coffee with her this afternoon that the idea of talking about what make’s one job meaningful could be both productive and interesting.

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Karen at her desk.

Karen has worked as a social worker for 24 years. With her new post at the Service Dining Rooms, she’s taken on a more managerial role (with all the fun additional administrative responsibilities that come with it!), and yet still finds the time to be involved with the daily serving of meals. She is very proud of the staff, and says it would be difficult to work as part of the team if each member didn’t work as hard as they do, putting effort and thought into preparing a nutritious meal for their many clients, every day.

‘There’s also the matter of helping people who are going through hard times – for example, not only do we offer coffee, rolls and a cooked meal, but there’s a proper and decent place for them to sit at a table to eat instead of on the pavement or under a tree. When it rains, they can come inside for shelter and warmth.”

Regina and Karen serving meals at lunchtime

Karen says that the SDR is also becoming known in Cape Town as a beacon of safety: when a woman was attacked on the street round the corner, she was brought to the SDR for help; when an abandoned baby was found in the centre of town, Captain January from the local police station brought her to Karen; a man looking for his long-lost brother calls in three or four times a week to see if he has turned up there; and when a young woman with her small child was kicked out of her home by her abusive husband, her friends took her to Karen, who ran her a hot bath, gave her fresh clothes and a meal, and helped arrange safe temporary accommodation. “It’s about helping people retain a sense of personal dignity, which is empowering [for them]. We also now have a (free) HIV testing and TB screening mobile service twice a week, and clients who make use of those services also receive a free meal.”

Does the job have any kind of negative or stressful impact on her life? “We open up at 7.00am and finish at 2.00pm, so even though it’s an early start the day is manageable and I still have time to attend to my own domestic and family matters. I do, all of us do, get tired because working with a huge number of people every day can be very draining. We have to find ways of doing things that work well for everyone, so there are often challenges.”

Next week I’ll be talking to Masooda Petersen, the Kitchen Manager.

Living outside

Jeffery M—–, below left, regularly comes to the Service Dining Rooms for meals. He has lived on the streets of Cape Town for longer than he can remember, and says he has few complaints about life. He proudly showed me the photograph that Frank¬†Sch√∂nau had taken of him, and whose work had just been on exhibition ** at the Lourensford Wine Estate in Somerset West:

Living Outside Jeffery

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** Frank Sch√∂nau’s photography is still available for viewing in Cape Town, at THK Photography in the Cape Quarter, 27 Somerset Road, Green Point (the gallery entrance is on Dixon Street, and the opening hours are Tuesdays to Fridays 10h00 – 18h00.)

No excuses for Jo

There’s a wonderful article about Jo Maxwell in the People’s Post (22 August 2017), a Pinelands resident who, at 79, says she finds meaning in life by helping the less fortunate in and around Cape Town.

Jo Maxwell

We are exceptionally fortunate to be one of Jo’s charity projects because she runs a large number of projects that benefit people at risk. She is a champion fundraiser, an eternal optimist, and one of the most vibrant, energetic people you could ever hope to meet!

“I feel I must do something that will change someone’s life every day. That makes me feel complete. I treat my projects like a business, and put all my effort into them”, she told Nomzamo Yuku from the People’s Post.

Jo has found herself nominated as a finalist in the People’s Post Spec Savers Community Champions Elders Awards for 2017. ¬†Where would the world be without people like Jo, the other finalists and, indeed, anyone who gives up their time voluntarily towards helping others? Have you done anything in the last few days for someone you don’t know, out of pure generosity of spirit?

exercise for the heart

‚ÄúThere is no exercise better for the heart than reaching down and lifting people up.‚ÄĚ ‚Äē¬†John Holmes

During the week of 17 to 21 July last month, around Nelson Mandela Day, we experienced an abundance of generosity from individuals and organisations in our community.  None of these people expect to be mentioned here, but we think a public expression of gratitude is warranted (the list is in no particular order):

food packs mandela day   packs mandela day

Staff of Retail Capital in Newlands (provided soup and sandwiches)

Staff of Medpages in Riebeeck Street (delivered over 400 sandwiches)

Staff of the Legal Services Branch of the Department of the Premier (delivered and served over 400 sandwiches)

Jo Maxwell (donated toiletry packs, food packs, and fresh vegetables)

Staff of I&J (delivered chicken mayonnaise sandwiches – above and beyond the regular donations from the company)

South Point Accommodation in Darling Street, Cape Town (for repairing and painting the dining room, bathroom and office at no charge)

Natalie Spirus (donated beanies and scarves made by herself and a group of friends)

My Citi (provided breakfast sandwiches for three days in a row)

Katie at Source Food in Loop Street (provided curry and rice)

Staff of Themis Law Chambers in Roeland Square (donated tea, coffee and creamer; socks for the sock drive, sanitary pads, and their time in serving meals)

Staff of BP Head Office (delivered and served soup for 400 people)

Nihaal and colleagues from Woolworths Adderley Street (donated 67 beautifully packed toiletry bags).

You have been blessed with kind and thoughtful hearts. Thank you.

Thanks to KMPG audit team

On Wednesday 14 June 2017, we were the lucky recipients of a whole lot of help and donations from the Investec Statutory audit team from the major accounting firm KMPG. The team had been nominated within their Financial Services division to perform the second Random Act of Kindness for the year.  This is what they had to say and show about their time with us:

We decided to visit The Service Dining Rooms on Wednesday 14 June 2017.


The Service Dining Room, under the management of Karen Cain, provides nourishing meals (breakfast and lunch) to the less fortunate every week day. 

Patrons are provided with a free meal when they present a token – which they receive using the ablution facilities at the Carpenters’ Shop or a medical check-up at the clinic. For those who are unable to present a token, an amount of R1 is payable.

The Investec audit team had a wonderful time serving food to the patrons and also assisted with the clean-up thereafter. We also donated beanies and socks for distribution to the patrons of the Service Dining Room.

Please visit their website for more details of the wonderful work that they do and contribute in cash or kind.

Thanks to all of you at KMPG who gave up your time to be with us, and to those who couldn’t be there in person but still made a contribution. We value your support, and could certainly not serve our clients as we do without this kind of generosity from our amazing Cape Town community.

Straatwerk – keeping it clean!

Twice a week, a team of helpers arrives at our premises to give the place a good scrub, dust, sweep and polish. They also clean the pavement in the vicinity and dispose of litter. The members of the cleaning crew vary from time to time, but they are always punctual and hard-working. They are organised by a nonprofit organisation called Straatwerk, which started in Cape Town over 60 years ago, and helps people to find a way of earning income on as regular a basis as possible. The Service Dining Rooms is just one of their many clients who outsource this type of work.

Our cleaning crew last week: (from left): Mike, Portia, Randy, Jamiel, Abby and Nyameka.

If you’d like to contact Straatwerk for any reason, the number is 021¬†930 8055 (all other contact details are listed on their website linked above).

Helping souls, changing lives

Not everyone that the Service Dining Rooms helps to feed are able to come directly to our doors. Meet Mr Solomons from¬†Solomon’s Haven, one of our off-site clients, who collects enough cooked meals to feed 250 people in Mitchell’s Plain as well as over 100 school children, every Tuesday and Friday.

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Mr Solomon (far right) assisted by Adrian and Matthew.

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Going quietly and consistently about their work in their local community and inspiring others to do the same when possible, Mr and Mrs Solomons wouldn’t have it any other way. Please visit their website for more information about them (see link above), and the difference they have made in the lives of others.

when the going gets tough…

When Maria discovered she had leukemia, she and her mother, Alice*, left Zambia and came to Cape Town where she could be treated at Groote Schuur Hospital. She is currently in remission and, on Monday, will be undergoing a stem cell transplant. She’ll stay at GSH for five weeks. Maria is 24, has a degree in economics from the University of Lusaka, and certainly isn’t ready to give up on any of her hopes and plans for a successful future.

alice and maria

They visited us at the Service Dining Rooms this week and made a generous cash donation. Just as we recognise the incredible work of some of South Africa’s doctors, nurses and scientists, we will also keep you in our thoughts, Maria. We wish you strength and a speedy recovery, and hope that your smile never fades.

* Surnames deliberately omitted.