The intensity of this current season of disruption will be brief in comparison to the long view of history. The consequences of the decisions we make at this time are are quite a different matter. Wisdom and discernment are called for. All our choices now have consequences later.
As I write this, our Covid-19 lockdown in South Africa has reached 118 days--nearly four months. Beside the obvious health crisis, the two major issues facing South Africa's impoverished communities are food security and unemployment.
While many businesses have been allowed to open fully or partially, crèches (early childhood centers) like Berakah have only in the last two weeks been permitted to open, but with such serious restrictions that township crèches don't have the resources, financially and staff-wise, to cope. Berakah's founder and principal, Nomthandazo (Sophie), has decided to wait until at least September, in hopes that perhaps with time Berakah will be able to make at least its Grade R (kindergarten) classrooms compliant.
What does an education ministry do when we can't run a school? Chandra and Nomthandazo have been hard at work serving Berakah's staff and families during this brief but intense season.
The third monthly food voucher recently went out to Berakah's families, allowing parents to purchase groceries according to their family's needs at a neighborhood grocery store. Thanks to all of our friends and churches who helped make this amazing ministry a reality.
In addition, Hatfield Christian Church (our local partner church) has provided food parcels for twenty-four families. A former Berakah staff member helped Chandra locate needy families who were not connected to Berakah and who had not received any other assistance. Making these deliveries, Chandra witnessed hardship beyond any we've yet seen in South Africa. The Covid-19 season has been truly difficult for South Africa's impoverished communities.
Three young adults who are friends of ours teamed up to make a couple of thousand masks (currently required in South Africa) to donate to community ministries and hospitals. Berakah received seven hundred of these masks, and was able to distribute them to our families and to other needy families in the community.
With our crèche still unable to open and no children coming, and no income since March, Berakah had to sadly lay off all of its employees. It was very difficult, but necessary: without a letter of termination, none of Berakah's staff would be able to collect unemployment benefits. We remain hopeful that when spring arrives in late September, the warmer temperatures will slow down South Africa's surging Covid-19 cases, government restrictions will ease, and people will no longer be afraid to send their children to crèche. Only then can we hope to hire as many of our staff back as we can.
In the meantime, we invited a local business, Nena, to empower Berakah's unemployed staff with a tremendous opportunity. Nena is the only South African company that manufactures women's sanitary pads, making their product far more affordable than the typical imported product found in stores.
We have asked Nena to train Berakah's staff as independent sales agents. They'll learn to manage inventory and sell their product, making a bit of extra income to add to their unemployment benefits.
We're grateful and excited for this opportunity for our staff! The first meeting was today.
Significant decisions to come
We need significant prayer during this season. In the long view of history, it will be a blip, but decisions made during this short interruption can have lasting consequences!