by Clint McLean
In a nutshell, I got involved at the start of lockdown last year, when a state of national disaster was declared. I had this really strange, kind of peculiar experience. I listened to Ramaposa’s address and then went to bed. When I woke up in the morning, I had this overwhelming feeling that there was an unseen enemy and I had to fight. It felt like war. It was the strangest experience.
I'm glad I decided to do whatever I could do to support my community and my country. I started off Immediately by making contact with a guy in Israel who connected me with a group that is working on creating open-source respirators. As I have a bit of engineering background, I was able to do some work with them.
I then turned my focus to making masks locally. We had Grannies, sisters, moms and the Durban North community just sewing. Even upholsterers joined in…everyone started sewing. I then started taking my truck out and distributing masks and it just kind of grew from that.
After making masks, food became the next big thing. There were refugees who were stranded, not being fed or looked after. In addition, many were being abused and beaten in the city. That became my next area of involvement. I spent the next, I don’t know, 8 months I think, going in and out of the CBD with huge portions of food. Tons and tons of food.
It was really just an organic progression from respirators, to masks, all the way through to planting farms in individual yards and offering mental health support.
It's been an interesting journey. I guess I did what I did and continue to do, because a lot of people I came into contact with were scared. I could see what was coming and although a lot of people were panicking, I wasn't. I fortunately felt empowered amidst the crisis and I decided that I was going to use this inner strength and calm to be of service. To support those people who were battling. That was my initial motivation. As I got into it, and we entered the pandemic and the lockdowns continued, it became clear to me that this was going to be a monumental moment in our country's history.
We were facing something that we hadn't faced for a very long time. I mean we faced something similar in 94, and then I guess there were the border wars in the seventies and World War II. This was just another one of those big iconic moments and I believed, and I still believe that this gave us an opportunity to change the narrative in our country. That in the depths of suffering, we could join together as a nation and identify with our common humanity, to act with kindness towards each other rather than rehashing the old narrative of race division, hatred, anger, and oppression.
This was a new opportunity. I did a lot of writing on Ubuntu Army. I proposed, supported and encouraged .... A kind of narrative of love and kindness. This is where our slogan - ‘kindness and compassion builds community’ - comes from.
That is one of the reasons I do this, to be part of this experience. To be on the front line of Ubuntu army. Over this period of time, we realized that there are incredibly compassionate people out there. Sadly however, many were oblivious or they just didn't care.
These are the people who are, I think, most probably primed and ready to enter into those discussions with the people that they aren't really in conversation with. The vulnerable, the poor and to break down these ridiculous economic and racial divides and to see if we can salvage a country out of this.
That's one of the reasons I continue to do it. I love my Country, I love my community and the people in my community who are struggling financially, struggling for food, struggling with anxiety and struggling with their health.
I am going to continue doing this until the threat is over, until everyone is back on a level playing field and are able to look after themselves. Then I am going to sit on a beach and do a lot of surfing.