South African Burners Join Forces With Local Volunteers to Help Vulnerable During COVID

Kevin Kgara Rack is a long-standing community member of AfrikaBurn who has devoted his time to the participation and engagement of First Nations’ Peoples at the Regional Event and beyond. Like many Burners in South Africa’s capital, Cape Town, Kevin has become involved in Community Action Networks (CAN), self-organized groups that have been instrumental in responding to the COVID-19 crisis and the inaction of government departments. There are now more than 100 CANs co-ordinating social development and relief initiatives in the city’s suburbs.

Here, Kevin shares his experience volunteering with Muizenberg-CANThis article was originally published on AfrikaBurn’s Binnekring Blog and is shared with their permission.



 

As we get deeper into the new COVID-19 reality, it’s no surprise to me to see familiar faces from the Binnekring [AfrikaBurn’s esplanade] on the COVID-19 frontline. Currently, a thin line of volunteers is holding chaos in check with little support from the system.

At the forefront is a collection of self-organising networks, known as Community Action Networks (CANs), which have sprung up around Cape Town over the past weeks. We are seeing community solidarity in action: a collective response to the challenges of the here and now, all powered by volunteers.

South Africa is the most unequal country in the world. Poverty is rife and many people are always just one meal away from acute hunger. The lockdown is hitting the economically vulnerable hardest. The liquidity in the informal economy has dried up. Waste pickers, casual workers, day labourers, domestic workers, gardeners, waiters and more — cut off from jobs and income. Many are the sole breadwinners in extended family care relationships.

We are judged by how we treat the most vulnerable in our society. Now is the time to act.

As a member of the Muizenberg-CAN, I’ve been working on the frontlines with deep gratitude for the power of collective action in the face of crisis. In the first stage of the lockdown, I worked alongside a local chef and other volunteers to provide three nutritious meals a day to Muizenberg’s homeless community.

This is a group of about 55 people who were rounded up by the police and housed first at our local park, and then near the waterslides, before being relocated to the city’s camp for the homeless at Strandfontein. While still in Muizenberg, a volunteer social worker and a doctor saw to their needs. The doctor screened them for COVID-19 symptoms and checked up on their general health needs. He has since been to check on them at Strandfontein, and is keeping a close eye on their welfare.

Click on photos to see details

With generous donations from our community, Muizenberg-CAN has set up a system for delivering ‘solidarity boxes’ to local families who are struggling to afford food. The boxes include healthy veg, rice, milk, oil, and other staples. I have a permit to travel and each week I do deliveries. We’re currently supplying 100 boxes per week.

At this time, collaboration between neighbourhoods is crucial. Muizenberg-CAN has partnered with grassroots movement Vrygrond United 4 Change and Amava Oluntu to support a network of food kitchens in Vrygrond, Overcome Heights, and Capricorn Park on the Cape Flats. Together, we are feeding a growing number of people, many of whom were already food insecure before the arrival of COVID-19. In the longer term, these groups are building the resilience of their communities.

We are judged by how we treat the most vulnerable in our society. Now is the time to act.

The COVID-19 lockdown is also affecting people’s mental health. Collectively, we’re going through a traumatic experience. Anxiety, loneliness, fear — these are products of the time we find ourselves in. We’re setting up a system for emotional support to take care of our community at this challenging time.

To do our work, Muizenberg-CAN relies on donations. Money goes toward feeding families, supporting the critical work of our collaborators in Vrygrond, and buying airtime, data, and electricity to keep the Vrygrond mobilisers to stay connected and online.

We are grateful for all donations, big or small. R250 (US$13.50) will support one of our weekly ‘solidarity boxes’ and feeds a family for a week’. To donate, please go here.


Top photo: AfrikaBurn community member Asanda DJTwoBurner (second from right) and Vrygrond activists providing food aid relief in Vrygrond township (Photo by Kevin Kgara Rack)

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