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Because they CAN help Kliptown residents




They have called themselves the Waverley 2 Kliptown community active network (CAN), and have been providing the residents with food and sanitary supplies for the past month.

Their group is one of several CAN initiatives set up across the country to link donors directly with communities in need. It was jointly devised by Howard Sackstein, the chairperson of the SA Jewish Report, and fellow Melrose North resident Ricci Lyons.

“We came up with this in the middle of a Zoom webinar about CANS,” says Sackstein. “Then and there, we committed to setting one up in our area, and the response has been phenomenal.”

Teaming up with photojournalist and tour guide Ilan Ossendryver, the pair decided to connect their suburb with Kliptown.

Says Sackstein, “It’s a meaningful connection. The Freedom Charter was signed in Kliptown in 1955, and there’s a strong historical Jewish tie as well. Thanks to Ilan, we’ve created a really strong bond with the people of Kliptown.”

The team were able to connect with Melrose North residents through a comprehensive number of pre-existing neighbourhood WhatsApp groups, says Lyons, the administrative mind behind the initiative.

Using the groups, the CAN is able to communicate with residents weekly to arrange the collection of non-perishable donations left outside homes. They also have the option of making a direct monetary contribution to the CAN or they can buy bread rolls for donation through a Norwood bakery, the Baker Brothers.

“Although we live in the same area, I had never met many of these people before,” says Lyons. “But now we feel closer than ever in spite of not seeing one another. It really feels like proper teamwork, with everyone playing their role.

“People really want to help, and in spite of being stuck at home, they’re determined to contribute in whatever way they can.”

Under Lyons’ administrative eye, Sackstein and Ossendryver carry out collections every Friday, and package the supplies up with fellow resident Caron-Leah Resnick and other local volunteers on Sunday. Resnick and Ossendryver then co-ordinate delivery of the parcels to Kliptown, where they are distributed to those in need based on a list compiled by local leadership.

“My garage has become the warehouse,” laughs Sackstein. “Twenty to 25 people come on Sundays to help us pack all the supplies, and we distribute through different networks subsequently.” These include nongovernmental organisations Afrika Awake, the Angel Network, and others.

Sackstein says that the response has been astonishing. Beyond sanitary and protective gear, donations have ranged from maize meal and rice to more eclectic items including cans of olives and even French chocolate truffles.

Thanks to the CAN, more than 386 families in Kliptown have been provided with food parcels to date, accounting for about 30 000 meals. Additionally, the initiative has helped a nursery school in the area provide lunch for 150 children daily.

“The system has worked brilliantly,” says Sackstein. “We’ve been able to bypass unscrupulous councillors and the bureaucratic red tape to ensure the food goes directly to the people.

“People give with absolute love,” Ossendryver says. “The residents who receive know that these items come from a Jewish community that cares for them, and not from the government.

“We’ve uplifted the Kliptown community in a meaningful way.”

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