2020 letter from the Executive Director | Oasis Association

2020 letter from the Executive Director

It’s been some time since we last chatted… and a lot has happened.

We have worked hard at putting this great Oasis jigsaw puzzle together, one piece at a time, and slowly we are beginning to see the makings of a picture. And yet still, some of the picture remains unseen for now – and it is possible we will find some pieces remain missing.

We find ourselves dealing with some strange anomalies. The most obvious of these is that, aside from a very small group, our Day Centre and Protective Workshop beneficiaries are still not back.

People with intellectual disability are the reason for Oasis’ existence and the fact that they are not here seems unthinkable.

However, we only got the official go-ahead from subsidising government departments for a staggered and phasing in return on 15 October. While most of our beneficiaries are not physically with us, we are in contact with them regularly on the phone and at their gates, with parcels to meet needs where we can.

The need for this assistance grows rapidly with each week that passes. We are now distributing over 200 food and care parcels per month. All adult beneficiaries have continued to receive their full stipend during the period of their being at home and the small increase to their disability grants from government has been a help too.

Adult beneficiaries at Oasis Houses have had a long innings of lockdown. The maintenance of their safety through isolation from the public has been rigid. The original group of 24 have since grown to almost 40 through a carefully managed quarantined return to the houses. I pay tribute to those staff, who sacrificed their own family time, to go into quarantine with residents, to offer care and encouragement.

A small group have not come home and remain in the care of their families until later. In the last few months staff and residents have been enjoying “outings” – scenic drives on our buses with picnics, where no one leaves the confines of the bus. The videos of these have been filled with laughter and delighted squeals.

One of the complex parts of our jigsaw puzzle will be the rebuilding and restructuring of routines when all workers and day care children return.

Anyone who has worked with people with intellectual disability will know that their security comes from continuity, structure, consistency and repetition. Many skills will have been lost during this period and teaching and development will be an important focus for many, many months to come.

The Claremont branch of the Oasis Books and Bric-a-Brac shop reopened on the 25 July. This opening was essential to our survival and it remains so to this day. Our shops have always been the heartbeat of our income to pay for all the services that we provide to hundreds and hundreds of people with intellectual disability.

The opening was made possible by the loyalty of our customers, easing of lockdown restrictions, and a team of hard-working staff who set about splitting the shop into three areas across our property. They processed a mountain of stock, while all being taught various aspects of safety.

It was lovely seeing our customers after such a long break from each other and I was particularly thrilled that so many commended us for our levels of safety. Their safety and ours is a top priority. While we were incredibly pleased to find that many customers still had cash in their wallets, their words of encouragement and friendship were ultimately the most meaningful.

We also thought it important that our shop cater to those who are vulnerable to risk, hesitant about big malls and crowded shops and who, like all of us, should mask up and socially distance. And so, our little spaza section in the shop was born. We are stocking fresh produce, direct from the market, basic grocery items and many of our baked goods. All of these interlocking pieces are beginning to fit together where “trading with a difference” becomes a reality.

On 3 August we launched our co-operative, selling shelves with homemade pickles, handmade sweets and jams and so on. Our first group of five brave traders from various sectors of work, whose work and livelihoods has been greatly impacted by COVID-19, turned over R24 000+ in their first three weeks.

Their products are not mass produced. Each is carefully handmade and homemade. When you buy their products, you help families bounce back from very tough times, with a nominal handling fee going to Oasis. The craft section of the co-op was added on 3 October with some lovely items.

Our recycling drop-off at Claremont has reopened. At this stage we are asking for GLASS, ALUMINIUM BEVERAGE CANS, BROWN CARDBOARD BOXES/CARTONS, ALL TYPES OF PAPER, BOOKS, MAGAZINES AND NEWSPAPERS.

We have also been doing confidential document shredding again. Please email recycling@oasis.org.za with enquiries. What we have previously failed to explain well is that the chief reason we cannot do recycling at full capacity is that it is labour intensive work and requires a full team of beneficiaries back at work. We will not be taking any plastics and household cardboard of any type, as well as food tins at this time or for the foreseeable future.

As a pre-school child I would stand on “tippy toes” and hook my elbows onto the table edge and watch the adult members of our extended family doing a jigsaw puzzle together. It was always the same – the side pieces first. It strikes me that the side pieces of the current Oasis jigsaw puzzle are a staff team who stand shoulder to shoulder even though their knees buckle at times as they hold the puzzle picture firmly framed. We are still not out of the woods. We have named ourselves “The Rescue Team” because we are doing all we can to rescue our organisation for the beneficiaries to whom it rightfully belongs.

Numerous pieces have been contributed to our puzzle and for these pieces we are truly grateful.

I wish to thank you for –

  • A remarkable response to our Christmas food parcel appeal with over 193 people and businesses ensuring that 350 parcels can assist to sustain beneficiaries’ families over the festive season, not only with nourishing food but care.
  • Words of encouragement, kindness and patience from so many individuals, most especially our shop customers. You have lifted our spirits no end, especially at times when we have felt deep despair.
  • The incredible generosity of our friends, supporters and donors who have kept our shops stocked, given us sanitisers and PPE, given cash and in-kind donations. You have helped sustain livelihoods!
  • Shopping at our shops. We trade with a difference and you shop with conscience. We appreciate you so much.

We see you all as part of our Rescue Team and we thank you sincerely. You remind us that “Hearts that beat to the tune of kindness can change the rhythm of the world.” (C J Peterson)

May the festive season be blessed with love, kindness and good health for you and your families. Please join in the kindness of keeping each other safe through responsible COVID-19 protocols.

May we all stand shoulder to shoulder even when our knees buckle. Your love and kindness may be the one missing piece in our puzzle in 2021.

Warm regards

Gail Bester
Executive Director | 021 671 2698 | www.oasis.org.za