The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has seen a remarkable rise in community action, with residents of communities across the country coming together to support those in need.
In Cape Town, under the umbrella initiative Cape Town Together, more than 150 community action networks (CANs) have sprung up since the pandemic began. More than 100 other CANs have popped up in Gauteng, the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal.
These CANs are normally started on Facebook and WhatsApp groups. Many have now grown into much larger initiatives which assist needy people with items such as food, clothing, hand sanitisers and sanitary products.
One of the greatest success stories has been the Khayelitsha Site B CAN. In partnership with other CANs and community organisations, the organisation has worked tirelessly to support the neediest members of the Khayelitsha community.
Khanyisa Vedala (29) is the inspirational young leader of the Khayelitsha CAN. He started the network with a WhatsApp group that now has more than 600 members.
“I was already working within community development and the COVID-19 crisis meant that the poorest people in the communities needed help. We got the entire community involved, working with different organisations and leaders to make a difference to these people,” says Vedala.
Every day, the soup kitchen set up by the CAN serves food to more than 150 children, while more than 600 people are provided with regular food parcels. In another initiative, more than 1 000 parcels containing sanitary towels were handed out.
“Even people who have very little themselves have been willing to give to others. It has been wonderful to see how the principles of ubuntu are well and truly alive in our communities,” says Vedala.
CANs in disadvantaged areas have benefitted from the assistance of other CANs in more affluent areas of Cape Town. The Constantia CAN has partnered with the Khayelitsha Site B CAN from the very beginning.
“We can achieve upliftment in South Africa if we all work together to protect the vulnerable members of society,” says Vedala.
*For more information on how to set up or join a community action network, visit the Cape Town Together Facebook group.