Insights from a volunteer

MENSCH Change-maker of the month: Dalia Katz

Like so many others, community involvement is not unfamiliar to me.

This is why when approached by Mensch to write this piece and share my new experiences and learnings during COVID-19, I found it difficult to differentiate between my old and new experiences.

I didn’t see my immersion in the ever-growing needs brought about by this surreal and unimaginable pandemic as something new. They are an extension of what has always driven me and so many others with whom I’ve collaborated.

A good place to start my story is my connection with The Angel Network — a national voluntary organisation and registered NPO, founded by the wonderful Glynne Wolman, and run via the power of social media. The goal of The Angel Network is to create a gateway for accessible giving. To facilitate and mobilise acts of kindness. Their virtual structure and technology together with their committed team and networks has enabled an immediate scalable response to COVID-19. This NPO supported by an amazing group of women has collaborated, dovetailed and networked with organisations like Ladles of Love, Mensch and various CANs (Community Action Networks).

Community work has always taught me to access underutilised resources. So, when Ladles began their sandwich drive, I co-opted my willing husband as my Uber driver. We went door-to-door collecting lovingly made sandwiches and hard-boiled eggs. The kindness and generosity of this initiative necessitated Ladles to automate and move to the CTICC.

The 54 people I’ve collected from have certainly brightened my Tuesdays and Fridays as we exchange warm greetings and brief anecdotes, making these collection trips longer than they should be, but certainly worthwhile!

The CAN initiative started to pair suburbs across the Western Cape with those impoverished communities in need, has rolled out successfully far and wide. I joined the Gardens CAN (paired with Nyanga), and have been blown away by the passion and dedication of the group. Being action orientated, I soon became part of the subcommittee made up of a group of highly competent and skilled individuals. A GBV human right’s activist, a journalist for Ground Zero, a Professor of African studies, NGO professionals, many in the film industry, and others. Very soon our spare garage became the distribution hub for the generous donations received from the ‘Food for All’ non-perishable and toiletries drive that have drop off points at the various shopping centres in our area.

My learning curve from our regular Zoom meetings has been exponential. We share best practices and brainstorm ideas on how we can make a difference. And we have, through supporting four soup kitchens, a drive for woman exposed to domestic violence in need of data, and the feeding of ± 200 families with food parcels in collaboration with Yebofresh.

As Vice Chair for Oranjia, the children within our care became our priority. The staff and committee rallied together to ensure the safety of our precious cargo. It was beyond heartfelt. I am enormously proud to be involved with such an amazing organisation with such immense commitment, leadership and heart!

Whilst for me, this pandemic has only exacerbated the already existing disparity of the need in our beautiful city, it has also united many into action. The growing needs, inequalities, hunger, unemployment and uncertainty of our future, can no longer be ignored.

I have witnessed the unbelievable symbiotic dovetailing of partnerships develop, and many selfless communities mobilise together to make a difference. I look at my role in this web of connections and realise more and more that ‘the whole really is greater than the sum of its parts, and that ‘involvement is good, but making a difference is better’.

I am reminded of the parable about the starfish washed up on the beach. Everyone has the power to do something small, to make a big difference for someone else. A concept that if each of us adopts, creates a culture of sustainability.

Dalia Katz is a valued member of Mensch, an NGO that supports Jewish change makers in South Africa. Contact to join the Mensch Network of change makers.

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