The Lockdown Life: Your Neighbourhood Network

South Africans are now living the lockdown life, and while seeing your neighbours for a casual braai is out of the question, your neighbourhood network can help everybody get through this unprecedented time of pandemic.

Living that lockdown life

All South Africans are now staying home. Aside from essential workers who need to attend to their duties, and the occasional trip to the grocery store or pharmacy, everybody is staying home. Yes, that means staying in, not walking the dogs, and not being able to pop round to your neighbours for a quick sundowner or a casual braai. But, at this time, strangely enough, your neighbourhood network may strengthen more than ever before.

Your neighbourhood network

In the sweet and quaint times before lockdown, when freedom of movement wasn’t so top-of-mind, many of us signed up for location-based WhatsApp groups, neighbourhood watches, or community patrol coordination groups. And, now that lockdown is our way of life, they’ve never been more important. As an active participant in these technology-driven community groupings, you can use them to strengthen your neighbourhood in several ways.

When it comes to security, we recommend:

  • Use your neighbourhood WhatsApp group even more effectively: Focus on the important topics related to the group’s purpose. If necessary, create separate neighbourhood WhatsApp groups to serve different purposes. One can be dedicated to security, another to general chit-chat, and another aimed at helping each other out. This will help your neighbours to filter their communications, decide where they’d like to participate, opt-out, or mute, and ensure that communication remains clear, even when you can’t see each other face-to-face.
  • Change your focus: Most civilian-led community patrols have been suspended, as people are only allowed to leave their homes for the absolute essentials. It’s still important, however, to keep that sector of your community vigilance active. It’s easy enough to perform some of your community patrol duties from your front door or window, and report in on any suspicious activity you may spot while you’re at home. If possible, link your community security group directly to a security service provider, as this can help to speed up their response.
  • Beefing up your home security: Appointments for conducting security inspections and installing new security measures are definitely postponed, but there’s no reason why you can’t conduct your own home security inspection, to check and see if there are any gaps in your home security measures. Take a walk around your house and garden and make a list of anything that may need upgrading or fixing. If you have everything you need to fix that pesky hole in the fence, or repaint that wall, now’s the perfect time to get on to your DIY to-do list.

Checking in on your neighbours

A community chat group can also be used to check in on your neighbours, without popping in to see them physically. We’ve rounded up some of our favourite ideas. These include:

  • Start a daily check-in process: Every member of your neighbourhood WhatsApp or chat group “checks in” by a certain time each day, with one person coordinating to see that everyone on the list has checked in. If you don’t hear from someone by a certain time, your appointed coordinator may try to get in touch with them directly and, if necessary, call your local security company to check in on them, if you don’t hear back.
  • Initiate something fun: Whether it’s an evening cheer to wish our health care workers well at a coordinated time every day, or sharing a fun playlist of music, or even starting an online game of Scrabble, finding something fun to do as a community is relatively simple, without having to establish physical contact.
  • Centralise your shopping: As South Africans are only allowed to take short trips to their closest stores to top up on groceries, it makes sense to centralise your shopping needs. Rather than individual homes making trips out, it could be as easy as one designated person collating a list of the basics and shopping for everyone. Of course, there should be limitations to this, and payment for goods should be made before your neighbour goes shopping. Then it’s as easy as your designated shopper dropping each parcel at people’s gates, and nobody needs to see anyone face-to-face. A simple milk and bread run might suit your neighbourhood needs.

Caring for others

Of course, every neighbourhood has community members that rely on others for help. You may have elderly people living in your street, or a new mother who is overwhelmed with the tasks attached to raising a newborn, or you may have someone undergoing treatment for an illness. These members of your community need to take extra care during this time, and they’ll need your help to be extra careful. Where possible, try and coordinate neighbourly assistance to help those members of your community who really need it. We suggest:

  • Checking in: Popping a quick message to people who may be immunocompromised, or unable to make trips to the store, can help. While many of us feel this new lockdown lifestyle of isolation quite deeply, for many people, it’s the norm. Ask how you can help without having to go over to their homes.
  • Running the errands: Perhaps you can shop for them, order their groceries online for delivery, or make enquiries on how to get chronic medication delivered to their homes. Don’t forget, if you do go to the shops for someone, they’ll need to fully sanitise and disinfect the goods before taking them into their home.
  • Find other ways to help: During the national lockdown, many people are faced with the unfortunate circumstance of pay cuts or job losses. If you’re lucky enough to skip these unfortunate circumstances, find out if you can help your neighbours out.
  • Don’t forget the rules: When it comes to tenants, their homes are currently protected, in terms of the lockdown regulations. No evictions can take place, and that’s important to bear in mind at all times.

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