A few weeks ago, I had a three-hour long WhatsApp chat with my colleague John in Sierra Leone. It should have been a 20 minute phone conversation but the network wasn’t strong enough where he was to support a call. Sometimes we manage to speak directly, which is great, but when that doesn’t work, it’s still very convenient to be able to ask him a question and get an (almost) instantaneous answer on my mobile. Thank you WhatsApp!

John and I were trying to figure out how to expand our  Kids Kitchen and Garden project to include the school next door, so that their pupils would also receive a warm lunch every day.

The Cape Community school, which counts 310 students, was relocated this year from a few kilometres up the road and now sits just opposite our We Are the Future (WAF) school, in Aberdeen, Freetown. Literally a stone-throw away.

Three children are standing in front of the Tigo painted wall of the We Are the future school in Freetown, Sierra Leone

I was asking John whether we could help them develop a small garden of their own, but he said they didn’t have enough land.

Could we maybe use the WAF kitchen to prepare lunches for them too? How much would that cost?

Our kitchen, which was built with the support of generous supporters in the UK and all around the world, currently provides daily meals to the 230 students of the WAF school. The infrastructure is already there and we are already paying a cook.

Ladies are serving lunches from big plastic containers to the pupils at the We Are the Future primary school

With a bit of extra money to buy food, charcoal and other necessities, we could feed an extra 310 kids!

We’d need a few more plates, cups and chairs and maybe a couple of extra kitchen assistants (managing over 500 children in a limited amount of space is not an easy task). The Cape Community school could provide the assistants and the parents would chip in financially too.

“It’s a great idea,” John said, “I feel very sad for the children during lunch as they stand at the gate and watch our children eat. It really breaks my heart.”

John’s like that. As long as I’ve known him, since 2005, he just can’t sit and watch children suffer. He has to do something about it. That’s how he became such an important figure in the community. People know he will fight for them, advocate for their rights with local authorities and convince people like me that we just can’t sit there and do nothing.

He even managed to make me think this was all my idea! But when re-reading my notes, I realised that he had been leading me there the whole time. Why, in fact, can’t we expand the project so that those kids get a daily lunch too? Come on, Sylvia, I’m sure you can get to that conclusion on your own. It’s kind of a no brainer, isn’t it?

It took a bit of Whatsapping for me to get there, but then I couldn’t get the image of children at the gate out of my head. By now, we’ve launched  the campaign and hope to raise enough funds to start the second shift of lunches by the time the new school term starts in September.

Because honestly, I don’t know about you, but I just can’t sit here and do nothing, when children stand hungry at the gate and watch other children eat.

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Sylvia Costantini is the CEO of Bread and Water for Africa UK.

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