Love during lockdown
I’ve got butterflies, big time. The “I can’t eat and sleep” kind of butterflies. The kind where you miss your loved one as soon as they leave the room. I finally know what Stevie Wonder and Donna Lewis are singing about. That Jack and Rose moment: “I’ll never let go. I promise.” This is what I’ve been waiting for my whole life, and I have found it. And let’s be honest, isn’t this what we are all searching for? This is a story about love, and hope. The love and hope I see and feel every day in Wolwerivier. It makes my heart glow, and is food for my soul.
South Africa is currently in lockdown, today is day number 27. This means that the trip to the supermarket once every seven days is the highlight of my week. I have never video called with my friends and family as much as I am now. Virtual parties and drinks, virtual meetings and virtual pub quizzes are the new normal. I am very grateful for this way of communicating, because this way the social distancing and lockdown is bearable. Exercising in the living room, as much Netflix as you want, sleeping in and reading books. That is what my lockdown looks like. Luckily I can make that trip to the supermarket and I can buy anything (well, only the essentials, which is a whole different story) I need – no panic buying toilet paper or canned goods.
But my experience of lockdown isn’t the same for everyone. Wolwerivier is struggling to survive. Not struggling like most of us to “survive” the lockdown, but actual surviving. Completely cut off from the outside world, not being able to go to work (if you even have a job) and therefore no income. What happens if they get sick? There is no access to proper health care for them. This is lockdown 2.0, next level lockdown. As nutrition is a key factor in immune protection, this leaves the children very vulnerable in this pandemic. The older kids as well as the children from Sunshine are completely dependent upon the meals they receive at school. But my kids are not going to school, and their parents cannot go to the supermarket and buy everything they need.
But there is a silver lining, this is a love story after all. For the last four weeks I was at home non-stop (except the highlight of my week, the trip to the supermarket). But since Monday I have a permit so I can leave my house and continue my work for Sunshine. Seeing all the kids and not being able to hug or kiss them is torture – the butterflies in my stomach are not happy about that. But I’m grateful I can still make visual contact, see their happy faces and hear them shouting my name. They fill my heart with love, and I get to see the loves of my life almost every day now.
We are feeding a thousand people every weekday. Food that we are cooking at the house and dropping it in Wolwerivier. And that is not just us. There are so many people who want to step in and help by cooking, food shopping and donating funds. This might be a time of uncertainty, social distancing, no hugs and kisses, being stuck at home and loneliness for some: the new normal. But my faith in humanity is definitely restored. I am truly grateful for everyone that is helping the people in Wolwerivier, and who are going above and beyond to make sure these people survive. It makes my heart happy and this feeling of love keeps growing. It gives us hope, hope that we will get through this and we don’t have to leave anyone behind. We are trying to live up to our name: Umta Welanga – a ray of sunshine in a dark and cloudy place.