Cape Town – Wendell Petersen’s wheels of change have been travelling across the Mother City as he tries to change lives, one plate at a time.
On Wednesday, about 200 hungry patients crowded around the entrepreneur’s food truck parked at the Gugulethu Community Health Centre as he dished up steaming bowls of chicken stew.
“The smiles of gratitude are so good for my soul,” Petersen, 31, said.
“There is no greater feeling than feeding someone who’s struggling to survive.”
A mean stew
His wife, Bryony, is a chef and owner of Jou Ma Se Kos. She makes “a mean stew”, while he coordinates the rest of the planning like buying the ingredients and watching the kids, he quipped.
“Then we go out and do our deed,” Petersen said simply.
He funds the initiative from the money he makes at festivals where he sells his signature “Hustle Dogs” – which is chicken or boerewors wrapped in a roti with salad – from his eye-catching truck.
The vehicle originally belonged to his father-in-law, and he gave it to Petersen for a few pairs of shoes.
Within two months, the once rusty truck was covered in street art and graffiti by respected artists like Mak1one.
Patients crowded around the vehicle, grateful for a meal.
Simphiwe Nkoko licked his fingers after tucking in to his stew.
“I didn’t eat this morning because the cupboards at home were empty. I am so happy I had to be here today and that I could be blessed with such a good meal,” he said.
Delores Ngubane enjoyed a few spoonfuls before packing away her Styrofoam container.
“I don’t want to eat it all because I want to keep some for my husband. I can’t afford to make cooked food every night, and this will make him so happy.”
Petersen, a hip hop enthusiast, said he was raised in a home where charity was encouraged and believes in a culture of giving back.
“I want to motivate the next person to do the same and create a chain reaction of good deeds. Imagine how we could change the country and even the world,” he said.
Depressing levels of poverty
A “shameful” number of people living in Gugulethu go to bed starving, community worker Patience Mathabane told News24.
“It is terrible that in this day and age, there are people who live in such depressing levels of poverty [that] they think of essentials like chicken and meat as luxuries,” she said.
“Most of our residents live hand-to-mouth. Children go to school without breakfast, making it difficult for them to focus in class. It breaks my heart, but this is our reality.”
She praised Petersen’s visit to the township.
“At least a few hundred people had full tummies today,” Mathabane said.
Make a difference
The saddest part of the initiative for him is having to tell a hungry latecomer that the pots are already empty.
“Yoh, that’s bad. I can’t even look up at them – it’s too heartbreaking.”
He is not looking for donations or sponsors to fund the project, Petersen insists.
“Rather help by taking the money you worked for and using some of it to help a person who needs it. There is no greater feeling than the one you get from helping someone out.”