By Hazel Levin, Executive Director, JCS
Working with peoples’ pain, grief and distress is often a thankless task. Despite this, each one of the JCS Social Workers has remained committed to bettering the lives of their clients and advocating for their individual needs. The community we serve has reflected a microcosm of the larger mental health crises that are evolving from the impact of COVID-19 and the resultant economic effects that have unfolded.
This has been evident in multiple areas:
- Increase in requests for assistance with food and accommodation.
- Requests for financial assistance.
- Involuntary admissions due to mental health breakdowns.
- Multiple lives lost due to suicide.
- Fragmenting of family structures due, in part, to financial strain and the use of substances to cope.
The funding received over the past year from our community has greatly assisted the TIKVAH FOODBANK in feeding the vulnerable and indigent members of our Cape Town Jewish Community. When the COVID-19 lockdown was thrust upon us at the end of March 2020, we quickly worked out that this pandemic was here to stay. It was blatantly clear that it would have a devastating effect on our already crippled economy, but what was not that obvious at the time, was that the ramifications were only going to be felt many months down the line.
We find ourselves navigating a new world which is still affected by COVID-19 in everything we do, creating a new normal. The Tikvah Foodbank saw the number of recipients grow exponentially during the pandemic. This is what continues to motivate our team to try and provide more necessary items to our Foodbank recipients.
The recipients of the Foodbank are no longer the same recipients who were receiving welfare in the past. We now have a new type of recipient who, at the peak of their career was donating to welfare organisations such as ours. These same people never expected to ever need welfare. There are among our new recipients, many who feel ashamed, embarrassed and scared of what the future holds. They are friends, colleagues or acquaintances of yours and mine. We encourage them to realise how blessed they are to be part of a community who will not forget about them in their time of need.
Higher numbers, due to increased demand, means that we have an even greater responsibility and role to play in our community. We rely on our many dedicated volunteers who are committed and passionate about our Cape Town Jewish cocommunity. The Tikvah Foodbank has managed to run its operation throughout the pandemic without interruption. Even with volunteers falling ill with COVID-19, we have been fortunate enough to increase the number of volunteers to just over 50. These volunteers never hesitate to be available each week to ensure that their delivery is carried out with dignity, respect and honour.
The Foodbank delivered 8950 food parcels to our recipients in 2021. Currently we feed 516 people three times a month, totaling 795 food deliveries a month – an increase of 17% in the number of recipients compared with 2020. In addition to our monthly food parcels, we also send food hampers to our recipients in celebration of all the chaggim.
Cooked MEALS ON WHEELS (including non-perishables) are delivered to individuals that are unable to prepare meals themselves. These Meals are prepared by Highlands House. 5055 meals are distributed every month, with numbers increasing daily.
A new RESIDENTIAL HOME was formally opened in December 2020. Within six months the home was fully occupied with 17 residents. The main vision for this residence is a stepup facility. “Let’s give a man a hand up, not only a hand out!”
In August 2021 we officially opened a new AGED RESIDENTIAL HOME. JCS needed to implement various measures to ensure the safety, security and welfare of our elderly clients. Seven clients now reside in a communal home ensuring their wellbeing, a roof over their head, warm meals and a bed to sleep in. A sense of community and belonging has been created, uplifting their spirits and reducing feelings of isolation whilst encouraging social integration.
NEW INITIATIVES UNDERWAY
Aligned with the mission of JCS; to provide for the most vulnerable members of the Jewish community, including those living with a mental illness, we will be opening a PSYCHIATRIC GROUP HOME in April of this year. The group home is there to be a supportive, structured and nurturing living environment in which an individual can reach his/her full potential.
At JCS we believe every person can live a happy, productive and healthy life, and that every individual has the ability to learn, grow and manage their illness. We will provide a supervised, safe, warm and loving home for those members of our community that fit the criteria for our Psychiatric step-down facility. All residents will be treated with dignity and compassion, using every opportunity to increase their self-confidence as they learn new and different ways to cope in the real world. Research has indicated that people who are adequately supported and have the functional capacity, transitioning to living in a community setting is an important step in attaining recovery. For many people with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and other psychiatric disabilities, living in the community can be a part of returning to a healthy level of functioning. The aim is to give them the tools to live independently.
JCS will continue to look at various new initiatives to support the requirements of the indigent and vulnerable members of our Cape Town Jewish Community.
We thank our donors for their continuous support in assisting us to assist those in need in our community.
Published in the PDF edition of the Pesach/April 2022 issue – Click here to get it.
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