What extraordinary times for us all. The pandemic moves us between grief and solidarity, an awareness of global human connections and local suffering, and shows our economic system as one that generates but deeply divides and excludes. Yet within all of this, our human spirit is rising as we are forced to pause to see what is important and to really see each other.
The Swartland communities surrounding Goedgedacht have not been spared the impact of the pandemic – in fact, economically these will be of the hardest hit. We will only know the health impacts as the pandemic progresses. Currently only two people have tested positive in the region, but given that testing is extremely limited, this is not reassuring. With high-density, poorly ventilated housing, where old live with young in often cold and uncomfortable conditions, we are concerned about infections but also recovery. And we worry about tensions and frustrations where families are forced to be together in tiny spaces.
Fearing the impact of widespread infections within the extremely dense townships and crowded rural homes, where people already have a high burden of HIV, TB and other chronic illnesses, the South African government has met the threat head on, with speed and determination. Aware that our health system was already under severe strain, the country was placed into lockdown with the first community transmissions. This has severe economic consequences, especially for the most vulnerable.
The economic consequences are already clear. The Swartland hospitality industry and small businesses have closed, and many breadwinners have lost their work – many permanently. Recent research from the Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies (PLAAS) at the University of the Western Cape warns of a looming food security crisis in the months to come where there will be widespread hunger. It is crucial that we provide a bridge while people are not able to work, to sustain them, support them through the lockdown, and to keep them healthy.
Within the current chaos, Goedgedacht is aware of the enormous responsibility of bringing hope to people in despair. We plan to provide daily meals for 1000 vulnerable people for three months at our 5 Pathway onto Prosperity (POP) centers in the communities of Riebeek West, Riebeek Kasteel, Chatsworth, Riverlands and Koringberg. Above this, we will provide meals for the 195 vulnerable people living on 19 farms surrounding Goedgedacht. Along with the meals, we will ensure that everyone knows about infection control, and has the means to wash hands and stay healthy.
For many self-isolation to protect healthy or frail family members will be impossible in an informal home. In partnership with our local hospital, Goedgedacht is offering isolation accommodation for 34 people to prevent further infections and to promote their rapid recovery. While much is not known about the virus, we anticipate that good nutrition and rest in comfortable surroundings is important to save lives, and reduce the pressure on our health system. If these patients become very ill, they will be transferred to the local hospitals. Goedgedacht is very pleased to be able to play a role in the Swartland municipal district, in offering isolation space for infected patients.
My favourite place at Goedgedacht is the interfaith chapel. It represents the Goedgedacht values of human love for all, connection with the self, healing, and kindness. Being in the chapel reminds me of the pause that we are all taking, to think about what is the most important in our lives and how we want to move forward. I sincerely believe that the Goedgedacht interventions will prepare us for better days to follow. To make this possible, we need the support of as many people as possible.
Managing Director Goedgedacht Trust