Best recipe for soup is compassion

Souper Troopers founder Kerry Hoffman and volunteer Caryn Gootkin. The organisation is hosting an event for World Homeless Day.

An organisation that started from a group of friends handing it sandwiches in the Company’s Garden is now preparing for its biggest event yet.

The NPO Souper Troopers, which was started by Sea Point resident Kerry Hoffman, is planning to host an event for World Homeless Day this month.

The NPO was started out of the boot of Ms Hoffman’s car almost three years ago. She started by giving sandwiches to people on the street.

“I became aware of what we, as human beings, are all going through. I wasn’t in the best of spaces and I wanted to do something to uplift myself but in turn uplifting other people.”

She decided to make some sandwiches, take them to the Company ‘s Garden and asked some friends to help out.

This is how Souper Troopers was born. “We decided to spend time with people who were living on the streets. On that day we engaged with over 150 people. It became evident that there is love that needs to be spread and shared.”

Ms Hoffman then decided to do this every month, sharing everything from food, toiletries, clothes and entertainment.

“It was about creating a unique safe space for people to come and equalise and feel human.

“They are not any different to someone that lives in a home or has an abundance of money or opportunities.

“Everyone goes through some kind of struggle in life and it is really just acknowledging that and seeing what we can do together.”

She said the Souper Troopers space once a month was a space for the homeless and volunteers to get involved.

She said the homeless were as much involved in running the event as the volunteers were.

“It is a culture of respecting each other, paying it forward, being kind and sharing love,” added Ms Hoffman.

Another volunteer Caryn Gootkin, who joined in February this year, said it had been a great experience for her.

The two got connected through an organisation called The Mensch Network. “I had been on the board of the Big Issue for 16 years. We were both members of the network and met in that setting.”

Ms Gootkin, who also lives in Sea Point, took on a strategic role earlier this year.

“(What) struck me when I first got involved, is how many people that come to a Souper Troopers event could be me or you.

“I think people don’t realise just how easy it is (to end up on the streets). Not everyone has a support system.

“The people that we deal with don’t have anyone that they can turn to.” She added that there was a lack of understanding that there was often no choice when it came to living on the street.

“They don’t understand that every single human being that is sleeping on the street has a very complex reason why they are there. Please don’t call it a choice.”

Ms Hoffman added that the Souper Troopers event was “a safe space”.

“When the Troopers on the streets are going through something, there is someone there, that cares about them regardless. It is a non-judgemental space.”

She said she could never have imagined, having started in June 2014, how the organisation would grow.

“It came from a very organic growth. It was very much a word of mouth and has attracted the right kind of people.

“It’s giving you the opportunity to be a part of the change. It is a transformative space. It’s about respecting each other. It’s important to focus on what we can do and the positive.

“Souper Troopers is a bold statement of how we can be together. Three years down the line this is only the beginning (of Souper Troopers). The bigger picture is about making it sustainable.”

Ms Gootkin said one of the pillars of the organisation was to break down negative perceptions. “What has been so beautiful about this journey is that there are families involved.”

She said her husband, children and mother join her, and added that there were many ways for people to get involved – one of which was to attend one of their monthly events.

The next one will be at the Carpenter’s Shop in Roeland Street on Sunday October 15, to commemorate World Homeless Day which is marked on October 10.

For more information about Souper Troopers or how to get involved, contact them on 079 572 0028 or email volunteer@souper