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!