It’s Day 55 of the South African lockdown. Today was a better-than-average lockdown day for me because I was out and about doing meaningful things.

Food parcels ready to distribute
Lockdown photo 55: Food parcels ready to distribute.

At 9:00 a.m. I walked up to 3rd Avenue, where Melville residents Tanya and Sean Gardiner have started a food parcel distribution program for Melville residents in need. Tanya and Sean have always had a policy of giving food to anyone who comes to their gate asking, and the need has grown so fast over the past few weeks that they decided to start a more formal program.

Every Wednesday morning, a group of volunteers gathers at the Gardiners’ house to pack the bags of food. The food is then distributed on Thursday mornings. (I’ll explain more about how this process works tomorrow.)

Tanya and Sean need help documenting the distribution process for the Viva Foundation — the charity they’re working with on the project. So I offered to come take photos and help out with whatever else is needed.

I felt a little disoriented when I arrived at the Gardiners’. There were already a bunch of people there, bustling about in the front yard with armloads of food, and I realized: 1) This was my first time being around many people at once (other than grocery store visits) in nearly two months; 2) I didn’t know anyone; and 3) People were wearing masks so I couldn’t see anyone’s face, which is super weird when you’re just meeting a group of new people.

I suddenly felt like a five-year-old showing up for her first day of kindergarten. Thanks to the global pandemic, I have forgotten how to to socialize.

Eventually I settled in. Hands freshly sanitized, I took out my camera and started taking pictures (which I still find very difficult to do in a face mask, but I’m learning). I filled in on the food-packing assembly line where needed. I slowly started learning a few names.

Food-packers
The crew.
Veggies
Veggies.
Food-packing assembly line
The assembly line.
Ayoob and mask
Ayoob has one of the best masks I’ve seen. “Tsek” is short for “voetsek”, which essentially means “go away” in Afrikaans. (Actually it’s more like, “Get the f*ck outa here.”)
Siboniso in her mask
Siboniso wins the prize for today’s prettiest mask. I love that Ndebele print and it looks great with her head scarf.
Food distribution guy
I never got this guy’s name.

All 300 bags were packed and ready by 11:00 a.m. It was nice to be among people again, especially such a fun, diverse group.

I walked home, loaded my camera’s memory card into its slot on the side of my laptop, and spent the whole afternoon editing photos. Photo-editing is one of my favorite work tasks — I find it oddly soothing — and the 10 or 20 garden/cat/food-shopping photos I’ve been shooting every day during lockdown aren’t really enough to sink my teeth into. Today’s big shoot felt like a gift.

Today’s Worthy Cause

Today I’m featuring the Viva Foundation, which I mentioned above. Viva’s main goal is supporting orphans and vulnerable children (OVCs) in Mamelodi (a township near Pretoria), but as I said they are also working with the Gardiners on the Melville food parcel program.

If you’d like to support this program, make a donation using these bank details:

Name: Viva Foundation
Branch: FNB Olympus Plaza Code 258155
Acc Nr.: 622 4884 3270
Reference: Melville
SWIFT: FIRNZAJJZXXX

Be sure to write in “Melville” as a reference. If you would like to donate from overseas, please contact me privately.

I’m looking forward to going back and helping my food parcel friends again tomorrow morning.

Mbali in mask
Mbali smiles through her mask.
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