Burners on the COVID-19 Frontline: a report from Kevin Rack

 
“We are built for this, for we are Burners.” As we get deeper into the new COVID-19 reality, it’s no surprise to me to see familiar faces from the Binnekring on the COVID-19 frontline. Currently, a thin line of volunteers are 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.

 
 
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.
The COVID-19 lockdown is 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 connected and online.
We are grateful for all donations, big or small. To donate, please visit www.muizenbergcan.org/donate. You can also use the bank details below:
First National Bank
Account Holder: Creating Change NPC
Account number: 62741789690
Acc type: Cheque account
Branch code: 250655
SWIFT CODE: FIRNZAJJ
Payment reference: Use ‘Muizenberg-CAN’ for donations to Muizenberg-CAN. Use ‘VU4C’ for donations to Vrygrond United 4 Change.
Email for proof of payment: [email protected]
Support our weekly ‘solidarity boxes.’ R250 feeds a family for a week.

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