I story: Faith in Humanity, Faith in Myself during COVID 19

I story: Faith in Humanity, Faith in Myself during COVID 19

Date: May 5, 2020
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By Kim Pillay,

Beep! Beep! Beep! Beep! Beep! Sounds the mobile with five whatsapp message alerts received. I stop in the middle of everything to read all messages starting firstly with a research done on the outbreak in Wuhan, China (where the first infection and outbreak took place due to consumption of animal meat not commonly meant for human consumption). I share it with as many of my phone contacts as possible. Second message is a song sung most beautifully by a very young Indian female about the Corona Virus to the tune of Havana by Camila Cabello. I share it. The song plays in my head at least every day since hearing it. Third message is a comedy slot by a Durban Indian comedian on the Corona virus. I share it. Fourth message is a government document detailing the Covid 19 lockdown restrictions and laws and the fines and repercussions thereof should anyone get caught breaking the law. I share it. Fifth message is one of the many new WhatsApp groups I have been added to namely the Department of Social Development Victim Empowerment Programme for managers/directors who head shelters for abused women and their children. All messages read and stored in the brain. Phone placed back onto coffee table 40minutes after those fivemessage alerts sounded followed by a 1minute trying to jolt my memory of what actually I was doing or going to do before the message alerts sounded. My two male cats are staring at me as to when might I look in the direction of their bowls to see that it needs a refill…. I refill them but think: “The spoilt brats think I stayed at home especially to tend to their needs! After the 21days lockdown, they will sorely miss me!”

The above scenario replays for the first  three days of lockdown from morning till night. On the third night of lockdown I am feeling feverish and panic consumes me: Could I be infected by the Corona Virus. I run through my head the symptoms that I read about: sore throat with no phlegm and a fever. I was feeling bitterly cold so I awake to test my temperature with a thermometer whilst I google search what is a “normal temperature range”. My temperature is normal so what is wrong with me? I drink water, take rescue remedy tablets, drop some lavender scent on my pillow and return to bed and hope for the best with both my mobile and landline phones next to me if I need to make an emergency call. I regret being alone during the lock down but I know I definitely do not regret being divorced! I wonder if I am the only person I know experiencing what I am experiencing.

The next day I reflect: Why did I panic and shiver and not even have a fever or the virus? My fear had consumed me and reducing my immune system. A week prior to lockdown I started a new eating plan to reduce my body’s inflammation. I knew then a lot of things were going to change in me with the eating plan and being alone. I debrief with my friend that lives in our complex of over 500 houses. I realise I am feeling depressed and she suggests Sue Morter videos and two links that describe the period we are in which is not just the South African lockdown but in the whole world. The difference between my WhatsApp messages and what my friend suggested was that the former spread fear and the latter love, patience, understanding and especially self care in the time of the Corona Virus.

The lockdown for me is about processing and taking stock of my life, especially being high risk and working through my fear of possibly contracting Covid19. Living alone throws in another dimension. I have been living alone for exactly 1year spanning my divorce on 15 March 2019 to the Lockdown implemented in March 2020. My divorce resulted from emotional and verbal abuse. Whilst on a healthy eating plan, not socialising, obsessing over social media and Corona virus news and ultimately coping using motivational videos and articles.

During Lockdown in the first  two weeks I worked mainly from home and then came into the office in Lavender Hill (an area ridden with gangsterism, substance abuse, unemployment and Violence Against Women and Girls) more frequently to make numerous attempts to secure food hampers for the poor, place requests on social media platforms for food donations and manage a shelter for abused women, an essential service.

I started juggling many balls in the air at the same time working alone to collect the donations, do the grocery shopping,  distribution to 5-8 main soup kitchens that we have worked with in the past although I know of at least 15 soup kitchens. I was contacted by the complex I live in by 3 different women who wanted to cook for poor communities but needed someone to fetch cooked food and distribute it accordingly. I gladly assisted.

As the lockdown progressed I became extremely busy. Specific funders and sponsors contacted me to drop off or fetch food and toiletries. I even requested from my neighbourhood to donate groceries to make three food hampers together for particularly African foreign national refugee women who were abused who would never be considered for a South African government food hamper. While this takes place VAW increases significantly according to SAPS stats but the shelters and safe houses saw a decline in referrals. I am also a manager for an emergency safe house for abused women and their children. The Department of Social Development victim empowerment programme (that partially fund many shelters) advised they would look into it after it was raised by the Western Cape Women’s Shelter Movement (WCWSM). We did not receive feedback to date. It was understood that abused women for various reasons did not want to leave their family homes. This was dangerous as women were unable to escape the abuser and many are staying through lockdown being abused. There are also women who couldn’t imagine being stuck in a shelter during lockdown and opted to live or return to the abuser. Those who made it into a shelter just before lockdown felt like they were getting a 2nd life and many even narrowly escaping death. That was a cause for celebration alone!

Pulling a muscle was another experience especially living alone during lockdown. Who do you call? It was a sharp shocking pain that ran from the top right side of my shoulder blade through to the front of my chest. It was excruciatingly painful and was affecting my breathing because I was starting to tense up as breathing became painful. Panic stricken, I cried. I phoned my neighbour who made me a hot water bottle, brought me an icepack, fed my cats, checked in my medicine cabinet for strong pain meds for spasms and I went immediately to bed and was touched by my neighbours willingness to assist me during such strict restrictions.

When the lockdown was extended, I was introduced to two chefs who wanted to cook to feed the community and committed to do anything to help while the Two Oceans Restaurant in Cape Point where they worked was closed. Executive Chef Chad Blows and Sous-Chef Julian Adams cook sumptuous meals and transport the food in their own vehicle to distribute in the community by community leaders especially women that I introduced them to. These strong women usually cook for the community from donations and even their own pockets. The 2 highly skilled chefs were humble and communicated well with community members and the strong women leaders. It was heart warming as a feminist and after 1 year of divorce from a difficult marriage to observe men who were positive role models reach out to share their skills knowing they will not be paid for this or if their companies would even be able to pay them in the following months. How would they even take care of their families while they are serving the community with love and skills?

The lock down and COVID 19 taught me to value having a job, food to eat and a roof over my head. Working on the ground in Lavender Hill and Vrygrond and watching the desperation and deepening hunger was painful. Being able to source food donations in any form was heart warming for me, including the sponsors and the recipients. As the lockdown was extended and the virus spread, more and more people wanted to volunteer. The team efforts of many including the sponsors, volunteers and the two chefs restored my faith in humanity and faith in me and our abilities and to never under estimate the possibilities of humanity and myself, working together for a common good, during crisis: a time that is clearly not normal to me, the community and the whole world.

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