How Will History Judge Us?

Big Issue|Issue 286

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How Will History Judge Us?
Adri Marais, CEO of Christel House South Africa, turns the spotlight on the fractures in South African society revealed by COVID-19, and explores feasible solutions to issues such as homelessness.
Adri Marais

In early March our leadership team at Christel House South Africa held multiple workshops to prepare for school closure. We knew that we would act in the best interest of our children and we asked ourselves, if we don’t act and we look back one day, how will history judge us?

So when President Ramaphosa announced that schools would close, our principals and leaders were ready, and within 36 hours we sent our children home with food parcels, learning packs, donated tablets, SIM cards and lots of hope. They knew we would be there for them and instead of a physical community; we would have a virtual community – just as close, just as supportive, just as caring.

As all of our children come from severely under-resourced homes, many on the edge of homelessness, they are fully reliant on our whole-child support including food, transport, nursing and psychosocial care.

When the buses left that day, Francois, Louw, our head fundraiser and I stayed behind to prepare a press statement to all our stakeholders when the phone rang. “Hi, it’s Michael, you will need contingency funds to deal with this crisis; we will make a deposit right away – you will need it.”

Corporate South Africa was sitting up and taking note, and showing an understanding of the human and economic storm we were sailing into.

Later, after launching a campaign to raise funds to provide food for our children in their homes, the phone rang again. This time it was Brian, another donor: “A group of us came together and will provide support immediately. Please keep the donation outside the official campaign; you will need a lot more than you think.”

Then our president announced the formation of the Solidarity Fund and immediately industry giants including Patrice Motsepe, the Oppenheimers and the Ruperts pledged billions.

Corporate South Africa stepped in to lead. Government stepped in to lead.

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Issue 286