German teen lends helping hand

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Makhopotso Mothusi

When Inka Spira last year took home a copy of a German newspaper with an article highlighting a fundraising pilot in Lesotho, little did she know it would attract the attention of her son, Roman, and one day take the family to the Kingdom in the Sky.

It was a few days before Roman’s 16th birthday on 30 June when he saw the article and the teenager decided he wanted to do something special on this special day.

After reading the story announcing the launch of the World Food Programme (WFP) ShareTheMeal fundraising App—a computer programme designed to run on mobile devices such as smartphones and tablet computers—all the boy wanted on his birthday was to donate some money to preschool children in Lesotho through this initiative.

The App was launched in German-speaking countries in June 2015 and piloted to raise funds for meals for 50,000 children in Lesotho.

“I had planned a family get-together for his birthday but he insisted some of the money had to buy food for the needy children in Lesotho,” said Ms Spira during a visit to Thuto-Ke-Leseli Preschool on Tuesday last week, alongside her son Roman.

The preschool, which is situated in Ha Mantsebo village, accommodates 80 children.

Roman and his two brothers—13-year-old Aaron and Milan (19)—agreed they would each donate M2,700 (150 Euros), and at least feed three children for a year.

During last week’s donation, Roman explained how he researched Lesotho after reading about the WFP App’s launch. It was during this research that he learnt the country was completely surrounded by South Africa, he said.

“When my mom said she was travelling to South Africa on holiday, I was fascinated and asked if I could join her,” said Roman. “I thought this was a great opportunity for me to see if the M8,000 (450 Euros) I and my brothers contributed had reached the intended beneficiaries.”

Unsure whether following up on her children’s money was appropriate, Ms Spira early this year contacted WFP offices in Germany on the issue. And when this request was transmitted to WFP Lesotho, it was granted, leading to last week’s visit.

During Tuesday’s visit, Roman presented Thuto-Ke-Leseli Preschool with 150 pencils and rubbers and six sharpeners.

“I was not sure what to bring the children, so the first thing that came to my mind was that preschool students do a lot of drawing,” said Roman, all smiles with excited children around him.

Roman said he was happy to see that despite the devastating drought in Lesotho, the children had something to eat, although more support was needed at the preschool.

“Lesotho is different from Germany but I like it. I was expecting to see some classrooms, which is not the case as the children are learning crowded in a small classroom,” he said.

Roman, who is interested in photography and video-production, took some pictures of the students at the preschool, which he said he would share with his friends back home.

“I would like my friends to know that giving to others is fulfilling. I am happy to be one of the people who contributed to the food these children will eat for months and for making them so happy,” he said.

Meanwhile, following the launch of the WFP App, 120,000 people in German-speaking countries downloaded the programme and raised M14 million ($850,000) to provide 1.7 million school meals to 50,000 children in more than 2,000 preschools in Lesotho for two terms. WFP was able to buy fortified porridge, maize meal, vegetable oil and peas with the money.

The success of the pilot in Lesotho led to the global roll-out of ShareTheMeal in 2016, with fundraising activities spreading to countries such as Jordan and Syria.

Mr Sebastian Stricker, head of ShareTheMeal, says he is happy with the progress made  since the success of the pilot in Lesotho.

“Our first goal was to support the children in Lesotho. The needs are very high, with many children suffering from chronic malnutrition.  The ShareTheMeal App provides an easy and social way to help these children,” he says.

“Users can follow the progress of our fundraising efforts through the App and see where we have already helped. We are very happy to see that the first target in Lesotho was reached in a few months.”

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