Year of Pulses

Posted on Posted in SDG-02, Stories

‘Beans, beans, a wonderful fruit, the more you eat the more you….’

Maybe it is just me, but the above statement was common during my childhood. I have vivid memories of singing along to this at tea-time in nursery and now as a student it is common to see posts such as ‘Ultimate student survival meal: beans on toast’.

What would impel me to write a blog on beans I hear you say? Well, in December 2013 the United Nations General Assembly declared 2016 the ‘International Year of Pulses’ with the tagline ‘nutritious seeds for a sustainable future’. So why do they warrant a year? Pulses are widely seen as part of a healthy, balanced diet and have proven to have an important role in preventing illnesses such as cancer, diabetes and heart disease. They are very nutritious as they are high in protein and contain numerous vitamins and minerals which help to alleviate malnutrition and associated diseases. The graphic below succinctly highlights the beneficial properties of pulses:

Well anyway, I have been fortunate enough to be a volunteer on SERVE’s Overseas Development Programme in South Africa in 2014 and 2015.

Tapologo (missing the o!) sign at entrance to the Hospice and administrative buildings in Phokeng
Tapologo (missing the o!) sign at entrance to the Hospice and administrative buildings in Phokeng

SERVE’s partner Tapologo is part of SERVE’S Development Programme (2012-2016) which is supported by Irish Aid.

Inspired by the International Year of Pulses I am going to highlight how the work of Tapologo in in Freedom Park, an informal settlement which is home to over 20,000 people near Rustenberg, (or before I went ‘that place that England played their World Cup games’), helps to provide food security for 100’s of children every day!

SERVE’s Development Programme seeks to ‘reduce vulnerability and improve livelihood security for poor children, young people, women and men in targeted communities’. The first goal of the now-outdated Millennium Development Goals was to ‘eradicate extreme poverty and hunger’. The Orphan and Vulnerable Children (OVC) programme meets the aim of SERVE’s development programme by improving the lives of young people by providing nutritious meals and a safe place for them to play and do their homework. SERVE support the work of 4 OVC centres but I will reflect using photographs (as I have a tendency to ramble!) on the one in Freedom Park as it is the one where I spent the most time.


In 2014 Irish volunteers emanating from the healthcare sector facilitated first-aid training and demonstrated to staff and volunteers in the OVC centres to take the BMI and height of children so that they could keep accurate records and see how children under their care were progressing.

Also in the Summer of 2014 SERVE leaders identified the kitchen in Freedom Park as a project for the 2015 volunteers. In Summer 2015 I am happy to say that I was part of a group that transformed a grungy, dark, infested container into one filled with light, electricity, up to date appliances, suitable storage facilities, innumerable paintings of Minions!

Volunteers from Freedom Park at the new OVC kitchen getting ready to start cooking! #SolidarityInAction, August 2015
Volunteers from Freedom Park at the new OVC kitchen getting ready to start cooking! #SolidarityInAction, August 2015

In this kitchen literally 1000’s of nutritious meals will be prepared every year. It also encourages a spirit of volunteering among the women who work there and they can get away from the stresses and strains of living in an informal settlement for a few hours each day to chat, sing, dance and COOK PULSES.

If you want to find out more about the incredible work of SERVE’s partner Tapologo in improving the lives of Orphans and Vulnerable children, watch this video. This screenshot shows a local volunteer preparing pulses for the children in July 2014

The front of the OVC kitchen is decorated by the hands of SERVE volunteers, Step Up and Serve Volunteers and children from the OVC centre as we can all play a hand in helping to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger.

So a ‘Happy International Year of Pulses’ to you all, a nutritious food with a long-shelf life! A food that can do much to improve the lives of many people!

By Karina McGinley


Action at Home

1. Article for Comhlamh’s FOCUS magazine
2. Members of Comhlamh and those interested in international development (issue was distributed to all SERVE volunteers)
3. Ireland (print, webpage and social media)
4. September 2015 See article 4 or I can send hardcopy