I-story: Surviving & staying safe during lockdown

I-story: Surviving & staying safe during lockdown

Date: May 3, 2020
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Malany October

3 May: I am the youth co-ordinator at an organization in Lavender Hill, where I also live. Even though this community and most probably most cape flats areas have been labelled as violent, gang infested and rife with substance abuse, I however feel that it’s a beautiful little community filled with many dreams and hopes of our youth and children.

On the 23rd of March, hearing the words from our president; “nationwide lockdown for 21 days”, was a dreaded moment. I was worried about the safety of our program’s children. I imagined them neglected and hungry during lockdown and my fears were realised. Into the first 2 days of lockdown, children were walking around in the streets with no adult supervision; most of them not even wearing a mask and approaching them was out of the question as I had to set an example of staying indoors to keep safe. Fortunately, I had started some Whatsapp groups with the older children in the various programs and in these groups I could at least keep track of their safety and support them through this time. I also started a group with the parents of some of the younger participants whereby I could also make sure the children are safe. In these groups I could notify them where feeding schemes are and also the latest news and updates of COVID-19.

I also recall the mad rush before lockdown to make arrangements for some of the youth’s safety. Our four German volunteers were recalled to Germany. This broke me emotionally as they had not completed their plans and goals for the participants within the programs, and these children were heartbroken as everything was happening so fast and it was so unexpected and I don’t think any of us were prepared for this.

Then I had the added stress of being a single mum with the sole responsibility of my 3 children and a 4 month-old grandson. Firstly I knew that to take care of my kids,  I had to physically and emotionally take care of myself. I have to however admit that pre-lockdown was a struggle, but we always managed to survive, but now with lockdown, honestly, it’s quite challenging as essentials are not lasting.

I have often had to rely on my brother to assist us financially in order to buy the necessary items.  My landlady was and is very patient with me in assisting where she can as well, even suggesting that we pay at least only half of our rent until the COVID-19 lockdown period is over.

In this time I have learnt to humble myself and had no room for pride when it came to seeking help for my family and even though people were shocked when I asked for help, I didn’t actually care because if I couldn’t find a way to support my family, no one will, and I could not allow or expect my children to go out and ask for help, they are my responsibility and depend on me to feed them.

There were times when I would look at my children and they’ll be telling me some exciting story, but my thoughts were somewhere else, like who I would ask next for help when my essentials run out? In a way, I was careful not to let my kids figure out that we were struggling, I felt they didn’t need to know this, but rather that they focus on the schoolwork sent to them via class teachers. I didn’t want them to feel my worries, it was not their concern. I would go to sleep late at night trying to figure out ways to survive for the next couple of days.

My eldest daughter just matriculated last year and had a baby, she also started a job 1 week before lockdown. I recall her being all excited for the new job and how she will help financially with certain things and sort out her 4 month old son with things he will need and then 2 days into work, they announced lockdown. She was devastated but I reassured her that we will survive, she shouldn’t worry. My grandson’s father was killed in gang related war when my daughter was 3 months pregnant, so there is no financial support from that side.  We manage to buy him formula but work with it very carefully so that it lasts at least until we can buy again.

Pre-lockdown, my children and I were not very outgoing, we enjoyed our time together and only socialized when we were invited out. When lockdown was implemented, we did not find it difficult, but after time, it became a bit frustrating, with so much free time on our hands, there was no more excitement of getting ready for school, work, seeing your friends, listening to everyone’s stories and what’s happening in their lives. Even social networks became boring, people were not chatting that much or posting exciting things happening in their lives and some just stayed silent. I was given a few work related tasks to complete during lockdown, so at least I could occupy my time with this as well. I am a very energetic person and love my job, I love being in the community, school visits and being in my office.

The brighter side of being under lockdown, was that at least myself and my little family had time to talk about things we never got around to talk about, challenges my kids were having at school, personally, in the community and challenges they had with me. These were things I noted down and hopefully can work on as soon as possible. In the meantime, we have bonded over endless cups of tea and coffee, my son that is in a female-dominated home, shared his strong feelings on feminism.  He spoke of everything he’s witnessed over the years and how he admires the strong females in his home and expressed that women deserve so much more.  I couldn’t be more proud of my son, especially growing up without a father figure in his life, which to me feels that I somehow am managing to raise a positive gentleman.

My youngest daughter started planting and growing beans, she loves nature and cares a lot for the well being and protection of the environment. She teaches me a lot of things regarding organic and healthy living.  Her information comes from reading.  She reads as much as she can find the time and lock down allowed her more of that time.

During lock down, we could have limitless family time in meetings and reflect and debrief the past life we had while I was married to their father. It broke my heart hearing how that relationship affected them; the verbal and physical abuse had left us all with scars.  None of us were happy but at least the positive thing after the divorce was that even though we are struggling to some extent, we are very happy.

I have slowly come to realise that God also had plans with each of us during this lockdown period, as things we usually complained about and things we took for granted, has made us realise what is important and sincerely understand the difference between a “need” and a “want”.

You approach strangers for help and strangers approach you for help and with this, relationships are formed. Before, most of us had nothing in common to talk about; however with the COVID-19 virus and lockdown, we all have the same concerns and wishes, that everyone stays healthy and survives this virus. People complained about challenges at work and school, but now, we miss that work, we miss our colleagues, we miss our friends, we even miss those that we hardly ever spoke to and most important of all; we appreciate that salary that we might not even get again, a salary so many were looked down on for not earning, but now we are all facing equal financial challenges.

Each spare minute I have, I pray to God; to keep my children, my grandchild and myself safe and healthy during this time, I pray for those being on the list of retrenchments, I pray for those that have lost loved ones or friends to COVID-19, I pray for struggling families, I pray for the vulnerability of those being in abusive relationships during this time but most importantly, I pray for God to give and bless scientists with knowledge on developing a cure that will be available to every continent, country and affected person in the world. Until then, I pray that people are obedient and adhere to the lockdown rules.

This is my story and I wish to express my deepest gratitude to our president, who is sincerely trying his best to put measures into place that accommodates all South Africans, I thank him for his patience and commitment towards our beautiful country and pray that God takes care of him and his family.

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