NOAH offers restitution, care and protection to the elderly poor in Cape Town to enable them to continue to lead independent, purposeful, involved and dignified lives, despite their limited government pension. NOAH provides affordable housing, quality Primary Health Care, psycho-social support and social enterprise for economic and social inclusion. In so doing, NOAH strives to improve quality of life and activity in society, with the aim of building well communities where households can thrive. When COVID-19 struck, NOAH was exceptionally fortunate to have a leading expert in infectious diseases on the Management Board. With his guidance, a COVID-19 plan was developed, communicated and immediately implemented. The plan was focussed on keeping NOAH members informed, fed and protected. The 12 NOAH homes were locked down, an isolation room set up and residents had access to meals, essential services and telephonic support. The 2 primary health care clinics moved to telephonic consultations and continued to provide medication, advice and flu vaccines. The service centres were closed immediately, and NOAH ensured support via monthly food parcels, electricity vouchers, household goods, protective supplies, information, home visits and telephonic support. All the Social Enterprises closed, although the Takeaway continued to provide daily nutritious meals. By continuing to provide these essential support services to the elderly, they have been able to remain at home with far less exposure to the virus, safe in the knowledge that NOAH is there to support them.
Whilst NOAH members were informed, fed and protected with basic PPE as the pandemic took a hold in Cape Town, it became alarmingly clear that the negative impact of the pandemic on their seniors’ emotional wellbeing, freedom, sense of purpose and level of activity needed to be addressed.
Funding from the Scheinberg Relief Fund has been used to do just that. From privacy screens (for those sharing a room) to psychological support, individual activity packs and food gardens, improved connectedness through using digital communication, NOAH has been able to provide a profound safety net for its members, an opportunity for healing and a sense of purpose, as well as positively impact the wider household.
To make sure that their responses to the pandemic are sustainable and strategic, NOAH recognised the need for the organisation to take stock of what has happened and plan well for the new normal. To this end, funding was allocated for a full Organisational Development process which took place in May 2021.
Following the incredible success of the ‘domestic food garden’ pilot launched in October 2020 and the long-term impact it can have on addressing food insecurity, additional funding was awarded to roll out the programme at 6 more of NOAH’s residential homes and at their Woodstock Community Centre. Not only do these gardens provide nutritious vegetables for members, they also combat loneliness and isolation, creating a sense of purpose, feelings of usefulness, happiness, contentment and of contributing in a positive way to their families and communities.