Topaz Page-Green may live in New York but her heart belongs to South Africa, where her charity The Lunchbox Fund operates. Born to Zimbabwean parents in Joburg, she moved to London after high school where she became a sought-after model. On a trip home in 2005 Page-Green visited some schools in Soweto and, overwhelmed by the hardships the students faced, decided to set up her non-profit organization giving daily school meals to underprivileged children.
She started small but now The Lunchbox Fund supplies over 240,000 meals annually in the Gauteng, Western Cape and Limpopo provinces by working with local bakeries and other local social initiatives. “By providing a meal, we’re creating a behavioral incentive for children to attend school,” Page-Green explains. “Statistically, for each year spent in school, a child is less and less likely to contract HIV or be subject to abuse or unwanted pregnancy. Our intervention is a solution by the community, for the community.”
There’s still much to be done in a country where 12 million children have insufficient nutrition and 1.9 million are orphaned as a result of HIV and Aids. But Page-Green is undeterred. “The Lunchbox Fund launched me as a person,” she explains. “If you really believe in something you do it. It's a very simple thing. Feeding children is integral to championing the potential of Africa. Food nurtures a child's willpower and creativity. If we’re not feeding our children, we’re not nourishing their potential, or that of Africa.”
The Lunchbox Fund’s patron is Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Hugh Masekela, Salman Rushdie and Page-Green’s former boyfriend Joaquin Phoenix are on its advisory board. She’s also just launched the Feedie app through which restaurants can donate to the charity. With support and concepts such as these, the charity has brought about real change.
Living in New York, she often gets homesick, but her sunny South African disposition stays with her. “Coming from South Africa affords you a certain relaxed friendliness no matter where you are in the world,” she says. “I miss the easy-goingness and smiles of people in Africa but consider myself as never having moved away. It’ll always be my home.”
Although her main focus is no longer modelling, her lithe stature, high cheekbones and rapunzel hair still turns heads. She remains enigmatic about her beauty regime (“I let myself get a little bit of sun. That’s my guilty secret!” she confides) and maintains an interest in fashion: “I’m very mix and matched. But I'm trying to be more elegant these days.” As for African fashion, she’s a willing ambassador. “I am certain that it can soon hold its own on the international stage. Why not? I for one will get behind anything that has strong creative vision and integrity.”
Images: Geordie Wood