My escapades during the pandemic lockdown

Rotary member Su Boertje, right, delivers supplies to The Baby House in Westville, South Africa.

By Su Boertje, membership and PR chair, Rotary Club of Westville, South Africa

In April, I learned that the Baby House in Westville, South Africa, a safe house for abandoned babies, desperately needed basic supplies. Due to the country-wide lockdown, donations had all but dried up, and the two house mothers and 10 babies (aged 1 week to 23 months) needed help.

”Not all super heroes wear capes,” I thought to myself, “some wear Rotary badges!” So I contacted our club treasurer to see if I could spend some of my PR budget to assist and they agreed.

I managed to shop (masked and sanitized) successfully for all of the items on their list in varying quantities. As the mom of a youngster, I added a few treats at my discretion – some biscuits, custard, marked down marshmallow Easter eggs that I clearly remember my son smearing all over his face (ok, sorry house moms – I perhaps shouldn’t have done that!) and the obligatory bag of Flings (a South African puffed maize snack).

Super hero mindset firmly in place, I made the drive across Westville, determined to deliver. This despite sensationalist media reports about people being locked up for being out of their homes, for daring to place a toe on beach sand, for not having permits to travel (unless it was for essentials or medical reasons), etc.

I didn’t consider the consequences of not having a travel permit. So imagine my absolute horror as I crested the hill 200 meters from my destination, to find the street lined with police vans and other official looking vehicles. “That’s it, they’re going to lock me up” I thought as my super hero bubble got thoroughly pricked and my very real South African fear of authorities kicked in.

My heart was thumping as I slowly continued down the hill, imagining the worst and expecting any minute to be stopped and interrogated. I gingerly turned into the driveway of the Baby House, masked up, got out of my car and rang the bell. I consoled myself with the fact that although I may have to sit in the Westville Police Station for a few hours, at least the babies would have their goods!

A very weary looking House Mom came to the gate in her slippers. I explained who I was and what I had brought. She was jubilant and my heart warmed even as I cringed at the prospect of being noticed by the authorities. I asked the second House Mom to take a quick photo with my phone – not anticipating her eagerness to be in the picture. “Hey,” she shouted to the nearby policewoman, “Come and take a picture!”

A policewoman and another female official came toward us. After a quick conversation in Zulu, that I didn’t understand, we were shooed together by the amateur photographer (as far as social distancing norms would allow) and voila! – a photo was taken. Another swift exchange in Zulu and the official and policewoman wandered away.

As the weary House Moms started picking up the parcels, I asked “What was that about?” It turns out the officials and police were on the street to screen and test residents for COVID-19 and had no interest in me or my lack of permit at all! What incredible relief!

It may have shaved a few years off my life, and caused a couple more grey hairs for my hairdresser to hide when he is finally able to see me again. But this wanna-be super hero in a Rotary “cloak” was and still is exceptionally glad to have been of service to such a worthy cause!

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