We began our February newsletter commenting on the challenging start we’d had to 2020 and how it had tested our resilience, but Covid-19 and South Africa’s final downgrading to sub-investment has made everything else pale by comparison. We are incredibly proud of the Wot-if? Team for the positivity and grace with which they have handled this corona shaped curved ball.
BEFORE THE LOCKDOWN
Yes, it wasn’t that long ago! It was busy, ‘business as usual’ for Wot-if? Here are some of the highlights for March:
The wall, made of Eco Bricks, is being built as a demonstration and a test case. We needed to see if we could teach people how to do it and whether it would be safe and durable. While incorporating known engineering practices, we used a combination of standard building materials and eco-bricks as a structural element to create the wall. To date, we have completed 2 of the 3 phases – the foundation, and the brick columns that will provide the mesh support for the eco-bricks. We estimate that we will use 850-900 eco-bricks to complete it.
For this demo, we will not be covering the eco-bricks with plaster or adobe (dugga mix) but we will paint the bottles with a UV resistant paint to maintain the integrity of the bottles. The 3rd phase will resume post- Lockdown.
A big thank you to all our volunteers who assisted, especially Majo Construction and Landscaping who assisted with a team of expert bricklayers at no charge.
Diepsloot Greening Club
As part of our ongoing lessons about understanding and showing respect to animals, our Diepsloot Greening Club learned about safe ways to interact with domestic animals. This includes where it is safe to stroke dogs, when to leave them alone and what to do if they encounter an aggressive dog.
Blake and Celia were adopted by Father Evantus (from the Catholic Church) from Woodrock Animal Shelter in December 2019. The Roots&Shoots participants were able to meet Blake and Celia, and practice safe interactions with them. Many of the children are very afraid of dogs, and this was a golden opportunity to overcome their fear and even cuddle them, which the dogs thoroughly enjoyed.
PR Workshop for our Kasi Creative Propeller Participants
Five selected creative entrepreneurs have been working as interns at creative agencies for the past two months. With the end of their internship drawing to a close, the interns attended a workshop facilitated by B-Gold on how best to market themselves and their small businesses. The workshop covered how branding can add value to their organisation, identifying trends that can be useful to them and how to implement trends and new ideas into their businesses. Our relationship with the Goethe Institute has made this all possible.
Ericsson Digital Lab Programme
The 25 learners have successfully completed Robotics (the first of 3 modules). They will continue to learn the basics of programming, but this time in the context of game development (module 2). Prior to the school holidays, they completed session 1 of Game Development in which they familiarised themselves with Scratch (a block-based programming language for children) and started building their backgrounds and characters (sprites).
We are especially proud of the energy and commitment from our team of facilitators, Angela Mila, Kagiso Mkhonza, Zandile Dube, Lesego Ramaphakela and Aubrey Nkosi , who have put in many extra hours to ensure that the learning is effective and the learners have fun in the process.
We are delighted to be partnering with Ericsson on this initiative.
Saving has become vitally important given the current state of the SA economy. We have partnered up with SaveAct, an organisation that runs a programme on forming and running savings groups. With their support, we will be encouraging our participants and staff to formalise their own savings groups.
THE COVID-19 LOCKDOWN CHALLENGE
The current reality
We have had to close the centre, which represents a daily lifeline to close to 80 entrepreneurs. No access to computers or data and for many who rely on it daily, no more UBU lunches. Most of our participants and employees are enduring lockdown in cramped living conditions. Some live in shacks and have to share access to water taps and toilets with many other families. Social distancing becomes virtually impossible in these circumstances. Add to this the loss of income for them and their families and many other people in Diepsloot and you are looking at a dire situation.
As an organisation, we face the prospect of loss of contributions, due to donors themselves in economic distress. We are working during the lockdown period to look at strategies for ourselves surviving, with our participant SME’s and beneficiaries, in the coming months. Click here to see our #KasiKwarantine call for help vlog.
Shortly before the lockdown was announced we ran an education programme for all our participants, especially the Roots & Shoots children, teaching them the importance of hygiene and social distancing in order to prevent the spread of the virus. Given the unreliability of clean, running water in Diepsloot, each participant was taught how to make hand wash and home cleaner which they then took home to their families.
The children were given educational games, books and activities to help with the boredom and stress of being confined at home.
We were very concerned about the wellbeing of our participants during the lockdown and the thought of sending them home with nothing really scared us. Thanks to donations from our funders and some generous individuals, we were able to send each of our participants home with a box of Nutriwell, a bottle of hand sanitizer and even some nice chocolates for Easter, provided by Big Five Duty Free. We also opened a “Kasi Boredom Bookclub” library so that they would have some good literature to keep them occupied.
Staying in Touch
In a time of social disconnect, staying connected digitally has never been more important. To facilitate our participants and employees staying in touch with each other and what is happening, Wot-if? is providing much needed data which allows us to provide remote support . We are using this as an opportunity for information dissemination , verified updates on how people can access funding and support for those in distress or at risk and to ensure some level of wellbeing during this time.
Covid in the Kasi social media campaign
We have engaged our participants who work in the content creation space to be our citizen journalists on the ground during Lockdown. Their brief is to provide video footage, stories, commentary and photographic coverage of life in lockdown from a township perspective. Please Follow, like and share #CovidintheKasi on social media (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram)
We have been working tirelessly to raise funds for more boxes of Nutriwell. The harsh reality is that many people in Diepsloot are more worried about where the next meal will come from than the virus. So far we have managed to buy and distribute 400 boxes of Nutriwell. This has been made possible by Dariel, Fujitsu SA, One School at a Time, and many kind and caring individuals in our network. The food packs are being distributed through our network of staff and people on the ground who alert us to vulnerable families needing help. Our social worker, Sheila remains available, even within the confines imposed by the lockdown and she has been engaging with those who have reached out to us. Sadly, many animals are also being abandoned or are going hungry during this time and we have also been fundraising for dog food. You can still help.
IN CLOSING – A MEMORABLE MOMENT
Fokus (current affairs programme on SABC 2) heard about our Eco-brick and Eco Trading Store programme. They came to film some of our very proud and excited Roots & Shoots children trading in the store and making their own hand wash liquid. Follow our social media pages, where we will share the link once it has been aired.