Loss of her child prompted Khayelitsha woman to launch soup kitchen

Pharie Sefali
Among the activities organised by Vivian Zilo in Khayelitsha is a soccer tournament. Photo supplied by Iliso.
Pharie Sefali

The loss of her 11 year old child to TB prompted Vivian Zilo to start a soup kitchen to feed TB patients. Within three months she was feeding 300 people, and the Iliso Care Society has grown from there.

Iliso’s mission is to provide basic needs to the people of Khayelitsha and surroundings.

The death of her child in 2007 prompted Zilo to turn her Site C home into a soup kitchen. She had noticed that people in the community with TB were not eating healthy food.

“To start the kitchen was not easy. I did not do it alone. People in the community contributed by offering their time in the kitchen, and some provided canned foods and vegetables”, says the 51 year old Zilo.

Today the organisation is doing more than she had expected. Iliso runs programmes for children, youth and the elderly, ranging from early childhood development and a food garden to a soccer tournament and a meals on wheels programme which brings food daily to elderly people to take with their medication.

She has extended her shack into double storey containers used as rooms for different activities in the organisation. There is a library programme, a toy library, a sewing programme for the elderly, choral activities for the youth and the soup kitchen.

Iliso Care Society also provides food to schools around Khayelitsha and also after-school tutoring lessons in schools.

The project employs ten staff from the township and 18 volunteers.

“We survive by getting donated goods and funding, from businesses that care about social development, and also from individuals who visit the organisation.”

Zilo, who grew up in the Eastern Cape and came to Cape Town looking for better opportunities, says that her childhood and poverty motivated her to become a better person.

“I dropped out of high school because my family couldn’t afford to take me to school. And I became pregnant and my life became worse because I was too poor to take care of a child and I was a child myself”, she says.

Zilo said that her pregnancy made her look at her life and she concluded that she did not want to suffer as her parents had. Neither of her parents could read or write but she wanted a university education.

When Zilo came to Cape Town at the age of 25, she worked as a domestic worker and managed to save money to school herself.

At the age of 30, she finished her matric at a school in Khayelitsha and in 1994 she enrolled at the University of the Western Cape and in 1999 she graduated with a Bachelor of Arts.

Zilo has a 14 year old daughter and looks after two other children, aged nine and 11.

She offers organisational training mainly aimed at empowering woman, and her new goals are to be a motivational speaker and a development coach and to open a skills training centre.

You can donate to Iliso. (GroundUp is not connected to Iliso and is not involved in any way with donations made to Iliso.)

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TOPICS:  Civil Society

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