Percy Malepe (27) from Dipslot in Johannesburg is working hard to improve the lives of people in his community. He is the founder and chairman of the Ikemeleng Foundation, a non-profit organization that feeds 400 people a day, offers free sports and extracurricular activities for students.
The youth organization was founded in 2020 during the quarantine associated with the spread of COVID-19.
Percy saw that there were people in his community who needed food. The government, together with local charities, distributed food, but there were still residents who did not receive any assistance.
He recounted one example: a foreign woman had just lost a child and was struggling to feed herself as the pandemic was excruciatingly hard on her. Ikemeleng helped her by donating food.
The organization was created when Percy and his life partner Relebohile Pebane (26) asked each other how they could help meet people’s needs.
In June 2020, they opened their soup kitchen at the community center, where it still operates today. Ikemeleng – which means “to stand up for yourself” in Sesotho, Tswana and Northern Sotho – is run by Percy, Relebohile, their friend Khomotso Mohale (30) and volunteers.
Percy approached food distribution charities in the area to help him get started. “They gave us vegetables. When we first started, there were six of us, and each of us brought a pot from home and everything he could,” said Percy Malepe.
“On the first day, we fed about 168 people using only a two-burner gas stove and a 9kg LPG bottle,” he added.
In addition to the soup kitchen, the hall has a garden where spinach, green peppers, carrots, potatoes, broccoli, beets and herbs are grown.
“We started a vegetable garden to keep the soup kitchen running. We use some of the produce for soup cooking and sell the rest to buy things we can’t get from the garden, like rice, flour and lentils,” Percy said.
He also helps community members to set up their own vegetable gardens.
In addition, the foundation offers free extra-curricular activities and sports activities for schoolchildren. On Mondays and Thursdays, they help students with homework and prepare for exams. On Fridays, the focus is on sports, including football, netball and basketball. Community members volunteer time to help children with these activities.
“There were a lot of kids in our local schools who were struggling. We wanted to fill this gap by helping them with additional classes,” said the founder of the foundation.
Percy’s friend, a 6th grade student, didn’t want to go to school anymore because he didn’t have the right uniform and shoes. With the help of patrons, the organization was able to raise funds and buy everything he needed. “It was one of our successes. We make sure that he goes to school every day and attends the extra classes that we offer,” said the head of the foundation.
Percy noted that the locals see the foundation as part of their family and are proud of the work that Ikemeleng does.