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10/09/2021

Pastor Earl Piet is a finalist in The Herald Citizens of the Year Awards in partnership with Nelson Mandela University.

While Apostle Earl Piet was recovering in hospital after a stroke, his garden project was vandalised and everything stolen.

But that did not get The Herald Citizens of the Year finalist down for long, as he has promised to continue with the project, which feeds thousands of impoverished residents.

The Gqeberha pastor initiated the community garden project in the midst of last year’s hard lockdown, when many lost their livelihoods.

The aim for Piet, of Bloemendal, was not only to feed the community but keep its youth off the crime-ridden streets while they acquired sustainable skills.

The King’s Gate Revival Ministries founder recruited youngsters from the community and members of his church to tend to the garden, where cabbage, onions and spinach were grown and harvested.

Piet founded the community project about two months into the lockdown, but after he suffered a stroke in November, the garden was vandalised and materials stolen.

Piet’s wife, Gaylinda, said her husband’s admission to hospital meant he could not keep track of the project.

“It continued for about a month after he was admitted to hospital, but then people started stealing material like poles and window frames.

“People also sort of just fell away because he wasn’t around any more,” Gaylinda said.

Despite the setback, Piet was determined to keep the King’s Gate Revival Feeding Scheme alive, she said.

He started the feeding scheme in 2018, feeding more than 7,000 people from Monday to Friday in Arcadia, Bloemendal Extension 21, Timothy Valley, Kliprand, Riemvasmaak, Vastrap, Jaagvlakte, two areas in Salt Lake and the Windvogel informal settlement.

Gaylinda said they had managed to keep the feeding scheme active through donations.

They now feed people twice a week due to a food shortage.

“The donations have been very helpful but they’re coming in very slowly at the moment.

“We now cook for people at 2pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays,” she said.

As a result of the stroke, Piet lost his speech and function on one side of his body.

Over several months, he was able to regain some of his strength and started walking with the support of a crutch, but his speech was still impaired.

His wife said he had expressed a wish to restart the garden project.

“He was very heartbroken when we told him what happened.

“When he returned from hospital, he asked one of the guys who help him to push him in a wheelchair to the back to see the garden. “It’s just an open field now. “He wants to try it again this summer but perhaps do it in our yard and not in the open field behind our house where he did it before,” Gaylinda said.

She said the project had attracted the support of a sponsor who provided them with a water tank.

“Fortunately, the tank had not been collected from the donor yet.

“We couldn’t bring it here because it would have been stolen too,” she said.

Piet is a finalist in the frontline category of The Herald Nelson Mandela University Citizens of The Year Awards.

Winners will be honoured during a hybrid gala at the Radisson Blu Hotel and online on September 10.

This article appeared in The Herald (South Africa) on 25 August 2021 written by Zamandulo Malonde Malondez@theherald.co.za. Nelson Mandela University is the main sponsor in the Citizens of the Year Awards 2021.