Food Parcels and Hazmat Suits

by | Jul 16, 2020 | COVID-19, Johannesburg, Melville and Surrounds | 12 comments

This morning I visited the Melville food parcel program for the first time in two weeks, and things have changed significantly at the distribution. The entire operation has been moved outside the church, due to the recent surge in coronavirus cases, and the volunteers are now wearing bright red hazmat suits.

Volunteers in hazmat suits at Melville food parcel distribution
Red hazmat suits go well with blue “OCD” hand sanitizer.

It was both dystopian and funny watching everyone walk around in these suits, complemented by masks, face shields, and rubber gloves. Like, this is the actual world we are living in now? I kept waiting for Dustin Hoffman to walk around the corner with a camera crew.

But yeah, this is indeed the world we’re living in. It’s not a movie set. And the suits are definitely not an overreaction. If someone comes down with COVID-19 it could put the whole program in jeopardy, and that simply cannot happen right now. The volunteers distributed 420 parcels today, bringing the total to 3895, and the need is clearly not lessening.

I don’t know if it was the suits, or the fact that I hadn’t visited the program in a while, or what. But I kept having to blink back tears during the hour I was there.

I feel heartbroken about what’s happening to our community — the threat of the virus, the increased hunger and homelessness, the overflowing hospitals, the closed restaurants and guesthouses, the bitter cold. It’s too much.

Food parcel distribution
The distribution running like a finely tuned clock, despite all the new logistics.
Tanya in a hazmat suit
Tanya, the program organizer, suggested the suits make people look like giant Teletubbies. I can’t disagree.
Line for food parcels
Lady leaving with her baby and food parcel
Man receiving a food parcel
Photographing a food parcel recipient
The hazmat suits are also very photogenic.
Kathryn in a hazmat suit
Ladies with food parcels
This lady asked me to photograph her and took off her mask for the portrait. I asked her name and she told me and then I forgot. I wish I could remember.
Fikile portrait
Fikile also asked me to take her photo. This was her first week receiving a food parcel and she was really, really happy about it. She told me she couldn’t wait to go home and make tea.

As always, thank you to everyone who has sent donations for this program. If you’d like to donate from within South Africa, please send a payment to the Viva Foundation using the following bank details:

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

If you’d like to donate from overseas, please contact me.

I’m going to blog again tomorrow so see you then.


  1. dizzylexa

    I’m finding it very difficult to be positive lately but these feeding projects give me some form of hope in humanity, even though I know it does not feed everyone. Have been thinking a lot lately of those sleeping out on the streets in this cold weather. Thanks for capturing and sharing this.

    • 2summers

      Thanks. Yes, it’s heartening to see people out there making a difference.

  2. ljdfloss

    I just found out that Tonic, a gin bar in Linden, has closed down and the owners are likely going to be liquidated. Can’t hold back the tears anymore. It’s like all the places and spaces that have brought so much enjoyment and been part of so many great memories are just dying all around us. And even death is not the end – there’s still an aftermath for owners, employees, families. Don’t mean to spread bad/sad vibes, but, geez. When will the hits stop coming?!?!?!

    • 2summers

      I know, I also just saw the post from Tonic. So sad as I really loved that place. We’ve got a long road ahead 🙁

  3. AutumnAshbough

    The tears seem more real to me than the surreal limbo of being at home and doing nothing while the world burns. Good job getting out and contributing. Many hugs.

    • 2summers

      Thanks 🙂 It is very hard to make myself get out and do this but I know it’s worth it. I have to keep reminding myself it’s a lot harder for the volunteers who get there an hour before me at 5:30 am, and the people who get there even earlier to wait in line.

  4. Catrina

    I think of all countries, South Africa is going through a particularly bad patch right now. The combination of rising numbers, wintertime, load shedding and hunger makes everything a living nightmare.
    But it will pass. The numbers will eventually decline. Life will come back. I know it seems far away at the moment.

    Thanks for the photos! They are very touching.

    • 2summers

      Thanks Catrina. You’re right — we’re getting it all at once. I’m really hoping things start to improve next month, along with the weather.

  5. eremophila

    It may not be a movie but it’s definitely theatre, and ordinary people are unwilling actors.
    This PLANDEMIC is taking its toll everywhere, the seen and the unseen.
    I’m angry, but also very despondent as the Plan rolls out more and more without revolt.
    Not my world, I’ll take my voluntary action.

  6. Lani

    A crazy thing happened in our town recently. Apparently, some soldiers from Egypt were flying back from China (already sketchy) and landed at our local airport. Despite strict quarantine rules for EVERYONE flying in, these cats were able to drive a hr into town, stay at a local hotel, and go out in public (they hit two major malls).

    Sure, they were tested, but were allowed to join the public before the results were in. Well, guess what? One of them tested positive! But he was back out of the country, but here long enough to possibly spread it, so schools went from opened to closed again. Folks here were so angry. The PM visited the other day, I guess as damage control, but they arrested one guy for holding a sign up questioning the govt’s decision to bend the rules for these soldiers.

    We were all starting to relax, more entrances to malls opening, life was getting back to normal and now we have to be “scared” all over again.

    • 2summers

      Wow, that sounds very sketchy indeed. Is your town normally a stop-off between Egypt and China?!

      • Lani

        Who knows? But thanks to COVID, the general public now has an inkling of what govts are doing.


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