Like so many others, community involvement is not unfamiliar to me. This is why when approached by Mensch to write this piece and share my NEW Covid -19 experiences and learnings, I found it strange and difficult to separate the two.

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I didn’t see my immersion in the ever-growing needs brought about by this surreal and unimaginable pandemic as something new. Merely an extension of what has always driven me and so many others with whom I’ve collaborated.

As I’m now asked to share my own story of volunteerism…. I realise a good place to start is my connection with The Angel Network – a national voluntary organization and registered NPO, founded by the wonderful Glynne Wolman, and run via the power of social media.

The goal of The Angel Network is to create a gateway for accessible giving. To facilitate and mobilize acts of kindness. Their virtual structure and technology together with their committed team and networks has enabled an immediate scalable response to COVID-19. This NPO supported by an amazing group of women has collaborated, dovetailed and networked with organizations like Ladles of Love, Mensch and various CANS.

Community work has always taught me to access underutilised resources. So when Ladles Of Love began their sandwich drive, I co-opted my willing husband as my Uber driver. We went from door to door collecting lovingly made sandwiches and hard-boiled eggs. The kindness and generosity of this initiative necessitated Ladles to automate and move to the CTICC.The 54 people I’ve collected from, has certainly brightened my Tuesdays and Fridays as we exchange warm greetings and brief anecdotes…. making these collection trips longer than they should be, but certainly worthwhile!

The CAN (Community Action Network) initiative started to pair suburbs across the Western Cape with those impoverished communities in need, has rolled out successfully far and wide. I joined the Gardens CAN (paired with Nyanga), and have been blown away by the passion and dedication of the group. Being someone who needs to be action-orientated, I soon became part of the subcommittee made up of a group of highly competent and skilled individuals. A GBV human right’s activist, a journalist for Ground Zero, a Professor of African studies, NGO professionals, many in the film industry, and others.  Very soon our spare garage became the distribution hub for the generous donations received from the “Food for All” non-perishable and toiletries drive that have drop off points at the various shopping centres in our area.

My learning curve from our regular Zoom meetings has been exponential. We share best practices and brainstorm ideas on how we CAN make a difference. And we have, through supporting four soup kitchens, a drive for women exposed to domestic violence in need of data, and the feeding of ± 200 families with food parcels in collaboration with Yebofresh.

As Vice-Chair for Oranjia, the children within our care became our priority. The rallying together of the staff and committee to ensure the safety of our precious cargo, was beyond heartfelt. I am enormously proud to be involved with such an amazing organization with such immense commitment, leadership and Heart!

Whilst for me, this pandemic has only exacerbated the already existing disparity of the need in our beautiful city… it has also united many into action. The growing needs, inequalities, hunger, unemployment and uncertainty of our future, can no longer be ‘masked’.

I have witnessed the unbelievable symbiotic dovetailing of partnerships develop, and many selfless communities mobilize together to make a difference. There is something very poignant for me in being part of this. I look at my role in this web of connections and realize more and more that ‘the whole really is greater than the sum of its parts, and that ‘involvement is good, but making a difference is better’.

I am reminded of the following parable on making a difference, a concept that if each of us adopts, creates a culture of sustainability.

One day, an old man was walking along a beach that was littered with thousands of starfish that had been washed ashore by the high tide. As he walked he came upon a young boy who was eagerly throwing the starfish back into the ocean, one by one.

Puzzled, the man looked at the boy and asked what he was doing. Without looking up from his task, the boy simply replied, “I’m saving these starfish, Sir”.

The old man chuckled aloud, “Son, there are thousands of starfish and only one of you. What difference can you make?”The boy picked up a starfish, gently tossed it into the water and turning to the man, said, “I made a difference to that one!”