Week 9 UPDATE COVID-19 LOCKDOWN
A time to rebuild and take stock
It seems to us that special day care centres like ours are going to be amongst the last “schools” to return after lockdown. When we return, we will have to stagger passenger transport and days between the children in order to meet the distancing requirements. Similarly, once we receive the official go ahead, beneficiaries at the workshops will only return in small teams, once staff have returned and learnt the new ropes of business unusual.
In March 2014 our workshop in Elsie’s River burnt down. It was devastating! The building was immediately condemned and declared uninhabitable. Furniture, fittings, equipment, and offices were destroyed and four passenger vehicles severely damaged. Thankfully no one was injured. On the Sunday morning of the fire we sat in the yard on upturned crates while the fire department fought the last of the blaze. We felt very battered and bewildered. The one thing we all agreed on was that our beneficiaries should not suffer unduly. We started putting together our plans for the 200 staff and beneficiaries to relocate to our Claremont services. Exactly 24 hours after our planning commenced, the first hired bus with 60 passengers arrived at Claremont. To this day I am still in awe of the staff team who made this happen.
The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step – Lao Tzu
Taking Oasis to our beneficiaries
In a way the fire was a microcosm dress rehearsal of sorts. I draw strength from knowing that our staff are now even more determined that our beneficiaries not suffer unduly due to the ravages of the COVID-19 pandemic. We are working hard at implementing our programme to take Oasis to our beneficiaries. Staff really miss our beneficiaries and it was an easy exercise calling them back to do this work.
“I draw strength from knowing that our staff are now even more determined that our beneficiaries not suffer unduly due to the ravages of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
At our day centres for 90 children with severe/profound intellectual disability, each individual has their own development programme. Some need physiotherapy and some need social work interventions. We have taken Oasis to 76 beneficiaries and their families this week, bearing messages of encouragement to families as well as health and hygiene products, nourishing food and of course toys and games for the children. A programme implementer also assisted to show families how personal development could be continued at home. The 76 beneficiaries also included many from the Oasis workshops.
No one forgotten
In the next weeks we plan to develop a much wider reaching programme – aiming to reach those who may for example not need food assistance but who need encouragement, to be helped to keep safe and who, like all of us at this time, need to see some familiar faces or would love to be given a simple puzzle, craft or magazine.
We are so grateful for the messages of support, the encouragement and the financial assistance we have received. In so many ways it keeps us going. Please bear with us if you have not received a tax receipt and our thank you letter yet. Should you wish to support us again in taking Oasis to our beneficiaries, or keeping our wonderful staff team well fed and warm during the dreadful challenges they face, please make a donation via our website or through SnapScan. The fire of 2014 destroyed brick and mortar and many possessions, but it didn’t destroy our spirit. It was rebuilt and occupied within a year. The COVID-19 pandemic has the power to end lives which can never be rebuilt. Please help us to rebuild as many livelihoods and broken spirits as we can. Gail Bester, Executive Director Click here to find out how you can support us.
Week 6: UPDATE COVID-19 LOCKDOWN
Should Oasis reopen our recycling now or not? This is the question which we find posed to us, and for which the answer is proving to be one of the toughest balancing acts we have ever had to face. Oasis recycling drop off is important for several reasons:
- Recyclers need us so they can channel materials into a system to prevent those materials from going into landfills.
- Our recycling initiative helps us to provide work to hundreds of people with disabilities.
But in these uncertain times, nothing is normal, and the number of issues we face in making the decision to open or not are numerous – truly a balancing act. So, we find ourselves weighing up options and trying to balance all sorts of considerations and complexities in order to make the right decision at the right time.
Balancing the question of whether Oasis should reopen its recycling drop off to the public, has been one of the toughest balancing acts I’ve ever experienced.
We have had numerous queries and some helpful suggestions, and believe me when I say, we are also all eager to get back to work and earn an income. But in order to explain our dilemma, I thought I should share some of the reasoning and context behind our decision to remain closed for now. Amongst other considerations, here are some of the issues:
- Up to 300 households drop their recycling materials if not daily, then weekly at Oasis – literally thousands of drops off per month. Trying to receive these materials at our gates rather than on our premises would not only create traffic congestion but would still require a high number of workers.
- Well in excess of 200 staff and disabled beneficiaries work at processing recycling across the two projects at Claremont and Elsies River. Some months we can barely keep up with the volumes. This is particularly true after our closure period in December/January when recyclers pile up their materials while they wait for Oasis to reopen. If we were to operate now, only 50% of our staff may return, severely limiting our ability to process the intake, and yet it would be impossible to restrict drop offs to 50% of their usual volumes.
- In September 2019 the prices for some materials bottomed out as there was a moratorium on exporting to China. This impacted us greatly and these prices are yet to recover. In April 2020 we were informed of at least two other buyers who are not buying materials for the foreseeable future. This will rectify itself with time as the COVID-19 impact on the economy lessens, but it is still a large impact in our current financial circumstances.
- By law we may not open until we are able to safeguard the workforce. Part of this is the protective personal equipment (PPE) which we started ordering in early April. PPE is a large, unplanned expense against our already very depleted and finite cash flow and even if we did have the capital to purchase all the PPE we needed, there are huge hold ups with delivery dates. Some affordable good quality items are only available by the end of May. Bear in mind our entire Oasis family across eight services, is 700+ people.
- Most of our disabled workforce can’t use public transport and travel to work on 32 to 40-seater Oasis buses. Our workers eat lunch in a happily crammed canteen. Add to that the hundreds of members of the public who interface with us when they recycle and shop at our Claremont branch daily. Our beneficiaries’ limitations render many of them to a cognitive functionality of a primary school learner, and they all desire to be social and warm with each other, ultimately making social distancing impossible.
And so even though we have tried to find alternatives for our supporters, we’ve come up empty handed, and while being very mindful of how we are disappointing hundreds of recycling households and businesses, we have had to make the difficult decision to remain closed for now.
We are told by recyclers that a permit is required to drop off materials at local municipal recycling dumps – we can’t confirm that at this time. It is heart breaking, but for now we need to all discard our materials through our household wheelie bin collections. Please forgive us but we quite simply cannot do recycling now, and we promise we have not made this decision lightly. Should you wish to assist us to buy signage, thermometers, soap, sanitisers, masks, visors, and/ or aprons, your contributions would be greatly appreciated. Please don’t relax your disciplined approach to staying safe. Lockdown will slowly be relaxed but we must stay vigilant. Thank you for your support. firstname.lastname@example.org Click here to find out how you can support us.
UPDATE: In the meantime, if you would like to continue recycling, here is a list of alternative options:
• The recycling centre behind Constantia mall is open for glass, paper and plastic.
• You can drop off your recycling at JustJunk in Wynberg (cost R20 per refuse bag), or contact them to arrange a collection (they will give you a quote depending on your requirements).
• Sign up with Clearer Conscience who will collect your recycling weekly (for a monthly fee).
Thank you for your continued understanding during this time.
Week 4: UPDATE COVID-19 LOCKDOWN
I thought reading may ease some of my lockdown frustration and so I have embarked on reading the highly acclaimed “Becoming” by Michelle Obama.“Becoming” opens with some references in the preface to what kids want to do when they grow up. Casting my mind back, I can clearly remember my aspirations. None were generous at all. I wanted to own a bicycle with an ice box at the front, filled with ice creams. I dreamt of riding about the neighbourhood ringing a bell and summoning the neighbourhood kids. My dream was based entirely on my own love of ice cream. What better way to have my fill of that delicious frozen goodness, especially when my pocket money was spent? I lost interest in this career when the first person landed on the moon. After that all I wanted was to become an astronaut. I didn’t know then that I would have an irrational fear of heights. But as selfish as I was, other nicer kids dreamt of being police officers, doctors, social workers and teachers. They had generous ambitions which would help others and save lives. Funny how life works out?! Today we find ourselves in a global pandemic with unprecedented hardship and loss, and yet this is a time where each one of us can do exactly that – help others, care and save lives. President Ramaphosa addressed the nation on Tuesday evening and spoke about saving lives and livelihoods. It strikes me that each one of us can play a role, without ever having to study at university or an academy. Even overgrown selfish kids like me can play a role. This role includes and is not limited to:
- Staying home unless you have to go out to buy essential food or for medical reasons.
- Wear a mask and if set up to do so, make masks for others.
- Wash your hands very thoroughly with soap, regularly.
- Keep your distance from others in the shop, at the taxi rank and on the pavement.
- Don’t entertain visitors and don’t visit others unless to assist a vulnerable person.
- Keep paying wages if at all possible.
- Help others to understand how to access Government and other relief.
- Contribute to a charity or a COVID-19 appeal of your choice.
- Show gratitude to all medical and essential workers.
At Oasis our prime focus has been networking with all staff and beneficiaries at home with constant education and encouragement. Feeding beneficiaries has been a real challenge. Although a lot of feeding and food parcels are reported, in reality accessing this relief on the ground is extremely difficult At the same time and trying to feed all our beneficiaries, we are also working on our phased in re-entry to the workplace and procuring the required hygiene and health items necessary for the reopening.
I would like to say thank you so much for the generous outpouring of care from our friends and supporters. We are encouraged and most grateful for your help. Those who would still like to help us, please remember no amount is too small.
We can all sell ice cream or become astronauts later, but right now we need to help others, care and save lives. Be safe. Gail Bester, Executive Director
Week 2: UPDATE COVID-19 LOCKDOWN
Intellectual disability is often misunderstood and too often unkind labels are attached to people with intellectual disabilities. Some say our beneficiaries are slow. Hardly. You should see them do athletics and when they are playing soccer! They’re much, much quicker than I am! Some have even represented the Western Cape at SA trials and some have taken part and won medals at the Special Olympics. Aside from ‘slow’, many other labels are also used – all of which I will not seek to disprove now. What I do know – above anything else is that a common identity does not confer on any of our beneficiaries. They are all individuals and like any cross-section of a group, they all differ. Some can sing and some sound dreadful. Some have naturally positive personalities. Some are grumpy. Some like tuna and lettuce on whole wheat and some prefer chips. What they do all have in common is a significant limitation in their cognitive functioning that translates into areas of limited adaptive functioning.
For example, identifying and avoiding risks; understanding consequences; abstract thinking; understanding time and money; and so on and so forth… It is these limitations that are their very real daily challenges. So when you place 10 remarkable staff in lockdown with 24 residents with intellectual disabilities, it is these unique challenges that staff must deal with. If residents battle to understand the risks and consequences of COVID-19, then handwashing and physical distancing requires patient persistence and repetition. Staff lend their support, provide guidance and supervision and above all they give love.
This isn’t dutiful love, nor is it written into job descriptions. It is authentic care, which isn’t difficult to give thanks to the nature of our amazing staff. Oasis is extremely fortunate to have the calibre of staff that we do. All in all we have 157 staff across all our centres. This includes 26 youth interns doing fulltime work readiness for a year and working alongside our beneficiaries as companion workers. We salute all of our staff and especially our house staff for all they are doing for our residents.
We also salute all of you who have sent us good wishes and/or money – we are deeply grateful. (Forgive us if you haven’t received our formal thanks and receipt yet. You will.) Oasis is in a critical place financially with all of our work programmes closed, (shops, bakeries, recycling projects, confidential paper shredding for Government departments and businesses, and packaging and processing jobs for large companies.)
We understand that this awful pandemic has left no-one untouched, and disposable income may be very limited. But if you are in the position to assist us in any way, please do. No amount is too small. We need our full complement of staff returning to their jobs, when they can, to be able to keep our services open and opportunities available to our 588 beneficiaries.
I hope and pray that I can count on you?
And please help save lives – stay home.
Gail Bester, Executive Director
Week 1: UPDATE COVID-19 LOCKDOWN
We are humbled by the concern expressed for all of our beneficiaries and staff during this awful time. Many have asked what we are doing. Oasis closed its shops, bakeries and recycling depot to the public on 18 March, which seemed early but our first priority was to provide as much protection for our vulnerable family as possible. Weeks before that we embarked on a hand washing education programme with everyone. A special team of staff, whether cleaners or not, were drafted into deep cleaning teams to keep all touch points and surfaces disinfected.
When it became obvious that social distancing was very difficult to achieve amongst our beneficiaries we asked families who could, to keep them home. We worked with a small team toiling to bring in as much income as possible, in the knowledge that very tough times lie ahead and every cent would count. Staff and beneficiaries with high risk conditions were sent home with, wherever possible, food.
A small team of staff worked until lockdown, arranging security; communicating protocols; making our monthly payments and arranging working from home for those who could. A reduced group of Oasis house residents and a team of wonderful staff, (some even sacrificing being with their own families) went into lockdown at our houses in Kenwyn and Ruyterwacht. I am silenced by the inherent decency of the Oasis staff team who take their duty to our beneficiaries so seriously. They are having a lot of fun together. I’ll also keep you posted about how staff are networking in groups and how we are looking for ways to find support to buy food and to get it to those in our daily feeding programme.
If you are an essential worker or need to shop for food, please take all precautions.
For the rest – please stay at home.
Gail Bester, Executive Director