If one had to sum up the events concerning the spread of the coronavirus that we are seeing around the globe in a single word, “crisis” would certainly be a justifiable one to choose. Off the bat, the word “crisis” may bring to mind images of danger, fear, and uncertainty. Often in crisis situations, the circumstances involved seem overwhelming and insurmountable.

Yet, within the concept of crisis also lies the opportunity or crosspoint for decision making and action. At a point of crisis, much like we are seeing in the world today, those involved have the choice either to be overwhelmed with fear, or to explore the chance to seize opportunity in the midst of chaos.

Millions of people around the world today are being forced to make this choice as the number of coronavirus cases climbs ever higher, bringing entire nations to a standstill. And South Africa is no different. As of March 26th, a 21-day lockdown was declared nationwide to help stop the spread of the virus. With this announcement came the sobering reality that not only was South Africa becoming increasingly affected by COVID-19, but also that the infrastructures here would struggle immensely if the virus was not stopped.

Many people in South Africa have been affected by this lockdown in devastating ways. For people who live in the townships, the effects of the virus and the measures taken to prevent its spread are particularly challenging. Some people have lost their livelihoods–sometimes for the entire family that they were feeding with their paycheck. Many live hand-to-mouth, and do not have the means to stockpile resources. If they need medical care, their options are often overcrowded, understaffed, and of poor quality. Whole communities do not have adequate access to clean water to wash their hands while in other places hundreds are forced to share public toilets. Moreover, social distancing in townships is near impossible with so many people living in such small spaces, placing the elderly and immune-compromised in these areas at greater risk.

These are sobering realities in South Africa. If anything, this global pandemic has served to highlight the injustice of the massive socioeconomic gaps we see here between different communities. Yet even in the face of such challenges, many people have risen up to help their neighbour in these times of crisis. Some such examples have been found all across Stellenbosch and Kayamandi.

Shortly after Ramaphosa’s first announcement, the leaders of Her Voice formed a crisis care team, partnered with over ten other NGOs and churches all across Stellenbosch, and moved forward with an initiative to provide basic essentials and care for those in Kayamandi and Cloetesville. Hundreds of donations came flooding in as soon as the news went out. Around 20,000 fliers with information on the virus in Xhosa, English, and Afrikaans were distributed across town to inform people, many of whom did not have accurate information and weren’t aware of how serious the situation was. Many of our ladies in Her Voice stepped up by posting these fliers on taxis, water taps, poles… Anywhere they could find. They also helped in the packing and distribution of food and hygiene parcels for hundreds of people.

The various communities of differing ethnic groups and socioeconomic classes represented in Stellenbosch united in an unprecedented way this past week before the lockdown. Like one great symphony, people, churches, and NGOs across Stellenbosch and beyond partnered together to provide effective, immediate-needs focused support. So many people who have never interacted with one another before strived to be the hands and feet of Jesus to their neighbor. Out of a time of fear and uncertainty came generosity, love, and kindness.

Furthermore, it was so encouraging to see so many of the ladies from Her Voice step us as leaders and advocates of compassion and truth in their communities during such a crucial time. Many of them not only recognized their responsibility to inform their community about the virus and how to stay safe, but also stepped actively into roles to do so. The way they care for and support one another is a true reflection of what it means to seize opportunity in the midst of a crisis, even in the moments that are scary and hard. In a space that could easily be filled with fear and shutting down, many have courageously chosen to love and to serve.

A period of crisis is never easy, but we feel grateful and privileged to partner with those in the communities around us in an effort to stand together under one banner of courage, conviction, and compassion. And it doesn’t stop with the lockdown. Several of our staff have received permits to legally continue distributing food packs in Kayamandi during the lockdown, and we need your help! At this point, our primary need is financial support. Check out the Crisis Response page on our website for ways to get involved. Your contribution of R400 ($25 / £18) could feed a family of five for a whole week.

Thank you for your prayers, your support, and for actively joining us in this endeavour.