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.

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