Why new connections broaden your horizon

On the first day of lockdown, which seems like a million years ago, I received a Whatsapp voice note from some guy named Chad, who was looking for a media partner so that he could go out and document the lockdown with his GoPro.

He was the guy, he explained to me in the email that followed, who had filmed the UJC’s latest video so I knew his request was above board but the ink had barely dried on the legislation involved in lockdown reporting and I had planned to spend the first afternoon of lockdown contemplating my new distopian reality. It felt like a bit much to add governmental red tape to the schedule.

But I spent the afternoon researching which gazette annexures I needed to fill in, and which other forms were required, and after a few calls to the South African National Editors’ Forum I had Chad, and another photojournalist he had introduced me to, Josh, ready to go out legally and document lockdown. That part felt pretty good actually. Here we were, a small community paper, with our very own lockdown photojournalists. Wow!

I lay in bed that night worrying. I was giving Chad and Josh permission to go out and shoot a city that had been shut down to most of its citizens. Would they be safe? Would the police see the permits I issued them and arrest them for non-compliance for something I had overlooked? Did they have enough PPE to stay safe? What if they got sick? What would their moms say? But it was done, and they were very eager to get on with their work.

And boy, it was exceptional. Within a day I was receiving images to our shared Dropbox that sent chills down my spine. Our beautiful city, quiet like we had never seen her before.

Chad and Josh, better known by their Instagram tags Gingerwithagopro and Joshwideawake, both have very active social media followings.

Within a week, content was being shared all over Instagram and Facebook, credited as having been taken on assignment for the Cape Jewish Chronicle. They were taking us into cool forums we had never been able to access. A little like getting into VIP because you are ‘with the band’.

Josh had his work picked up by News24 and the You/Huisgenoot/Drum magazine stable, he was also interviewed by eNews, Beautiful News, and many other Facebook news pages, and he and Chad were interviewed together on a Zoom panel for Limmud Cape Town. Chad’s work was being shared by news channels like News24, The Jewish Report, GoodNewsGuy, Times Live, Sowetan Live, Social TV and WITS Vuvuzela. Both were also having their work admired and shared by their online followers — thousands of them. The Chronicle was a part of something big, and we were so proud.

Then Chad told me that he had come up with an idea. He was refocusing his attention onto the NGO’s supplying food to people with dire food insecurity. After documenting the work of organisations like Ladles of Love, Chad started Raising Hope, a Backabuddy campaign that exceeded his initial funding goal of R150 000 in just three days. We were even prouder. To date they have raised over R560 000 to assist more than 30 organisations with funds to alleviate hunger in South Africa.

Lockdown has been a rollercoaster ride, with good days and bad. But one of the days that will stick with me for my whole life, is day 1, when instead of contemplating my new life on the inside, I decided to answer a voice note from some guy named Chad.

Follow both Chad and Josh on Instagram at gingerwithagopro and joshwideawake.

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