When Isabelle Kamariza founded Solid Africa in 2010, her dreams of feeding 5000 patients from the 20 that she started with seemed too wild to be true.
Today, however, the organisation provides three nutritious meals to 800 vulnerable patients daily across six public hospitals in Kigali, namely: University Teaching Hospital of Kigali (CHUK), Kibagabaga Hospital, Muhima Hospital and Masaka Hospital and at no cost.
This has been made possible with the Mike Stenbock (MS) Gemura Kitchen, named after one of the members and first project manager of the kitchen who unfortunately passed away. The kitchen is situated in Rusororo sector – Gasabo District.
A tour around the kitchen reveals how hygiene and order characterise the entire facility, equipped with state of the art refrigerators, ovens, food preparation and delivery areas, changing rooms for employees and a small vegetable garden.
“Before the kitchen, we were feeding 400 patients one meal a day, prepared from home kitchens by our volunteers. We had the idea of the kitchen in 2011. Since the beginning we knew that if we wanted to do it professionally and also give food security to patients, be consistent, have a specific diet and help more patients, we needed to have a kitchen of our own.
“Our initial idea was to have a small kitchen of about Rwf50 million but thinking further, we realised that our limit would be 500 to 1000 patients, yet we needed more room to grow and be sustainable. Currently, we are feeding 800 patients with breakfast, lunch and supper, which is 2,400 meals a day,” Kamariza explains.
It was sponsored by Imbuto Foundation, an organisation which is championed by the First Lady Jeannette Kagame, in partnership with Morocco’s King Mohammed VI Foundation for Sustainable Development.
Construction started in 2018 and ended in 2019, with maximum capacity to prepare 15,000 meals.
The advancement, however, did not only increase the numbers of beneficiaries, but the quality of food given to patients, given the access to various cooking equipment and farms located nearby, Kamariza explains.
“We began farming in 2014 to increase our food, but started with a few vegetables and beans. We thankfully have been farming more since we had the kitchen because we wanted to control the value chain of our meals and reduce the cost. And to avoid any price fluctuations, we also started farming rice, sweet potatoes and fruits.
“Currently, we farm around 80 per cent of the produce in our kitchen and the beauty about it is that we can adapt to several diets at the same time. We are able to afford different dies for patients, such as egg soup and fish soup, or patients who cannot eat sugar and salt. This was difficult for us to do when we were cooking in homes.”
With the establishment of the kitchen she believes that dreams do come true. It is for this reason that the organisation dreams of extending their vision to Africa, but first, the whole of Rwanda.
“The reason we called this organisation ‘Solid Africa’ is because we believe that we share this problem with the rest of Africa. Public hospitals across the continent don’t provide food to patients and the burden is on the families that are already struggling to feed at home. We believe that food is medicine and should be part of the medical care.
“Our dream is for people to duplicate and implement our model to other African countries, but first we want to be everywhere in Rwanda. Our next step will be setting up a small kitchen at every district hospital so that in the future, people cannot be sick and worry about what they will eat,” Kamariza says.
At maximum capacity when the second phase of the facility is complete, the kitchen will be capable of 5,000 meals a day. With this, she shares, a restaurant will be set up to provide food for those who can afford, and the money goes back to helping the patients.
About ‘Solid Africa’
The non-profit helps social economic vulnerable patients in the first and second categories of Ubudehe, who cannot afford meals and are either coming from remote areas, or do not have caretakers to bring them food.
Besides providing food, they also have other small programmes where they bring clean water, hygienic products, buy medicine that cannot be bought with Mutuelle de santé, help out with hospital bills for those unable to afford and give transport fare back home.
They also advocate for patients and improve their daily lives. “We choose to focus on public hospitals for us to be able to have great impact and not scatter around.”
‘Solid Africa’ works with around 200 volunteers who commit their time and money to the organisation. With the kitchen, however, more help is needed in the preparation like slicing vegetables and packaging for different hospitals, but also at the hospitals in delivering food at the wards.Follow https://twitter.com/SharonKMugabo