Food insecurity is a rampant challenge in the South African tertiary education environment and has a huge impact on the health, well-being and academic performance of affected students. BCom (Law) student Paseka Gaola is on a mission to make a difference and was inspired by the Street Store concept, which is the brainchild of Capetonians Kayli Levitan and Max Pazak, where necessities are collected from the haves and donated to the have-nots.
“When I signed a pledge to host The Street Store, we initially intended to help members of the community in Mamelodi, but we realised that there was a bigger need in the student community. Therefore, we modified our plans and focused on helping students in need on the Mamelodi Campus of the University of Pretoria,” says Paseka.
He explains that when he did his first year in 2018, he was very touched by the stories of his peers, as most of them were from disadvantaged families and education was the only thing that they could use to change their lives. “Their stories were very similar to mine and it is for that reason that The Street [email protected] was formed, to help students in need with food, toiletries, and clothes,” he says.
Paseka Gaola with food supplies for The Street [email protected]
The Street [email protected] was recently recognised in the Media24 #1000 Acts of Kindness initiative, which awards R5 000 to deserving charities, and Paseka says they were excited to receive the news, as the money is going to benefit many students and change lives. He reports that, “Last year we collected more than R25 000 worth of goods, which benefited almost 30 students on a weekly basis. The idea of having such a programme on campus created a platform for giving and a culture of citizenship.”
Paseka stresses that the success of the project is largely due to the collaborative efforts of various role-players. “I have been working with many people and organisations in and out of the University of Pretoria. Above all, the Mamelodi Business Clinic in the Department of Business Management has been very supportive. Even though it was difficult, they gave me strength and support through thick and thin. No amount of words will be enough to express my gratitude.”
There are big plans for The Street [email protected] in 2020, as they aim to increase capacity in order to assist even more students. They also hope to collaborate with other societies and programmes that are in the business of helping students in need.