Communities wash away lockdown blues with ‘barter’ deals

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Communities wash away lockdown blues with ‘barter’ deals

‘Doing someone’s laundry in the comfort of my home is a much better deal than going to the shops’

Journalist
Ailene Barlow, from East Town, near Northcliff, says she experienced an outpouring of goodwill from neighbours when she asked them to do her laundry.
water work Ailene Barlow, from East Town, near Northcliff, says she experienced an outpouring of goodwill from neighbours when she asked them to do her laundry.
Image: Supplied

Nomusa Nkosi, 63, from Roodepoort, west of Johannesburg, is too scared to go out to buy essential goods during lockdown, so she offered to do her neighbour’s laundry, in return for a run to the shops.

She jumped at the opportunity when Chantelle Abrams, who normally goes to the laundromat, asked for help with her laundry, in exchange for going to the shops, on the community WhatsApp group.

“The increasing number of infections in the country really shows us that we are all at the risk of being infected. This virus is really here and I would do anything to minimise the risk,” Nkosi said.

Abrams said she was happy with the barter deal.

“I would have coped until April 16, but when [President Cyril Ramaphosa] announced the extension, I had to come up with a plan,” she said.

Lockdown has been a positive experience for me. People in the community were willing to help each other in whatever way possible.
Ailene Barlow

The response from the group was overwhelming, with everyone willing to help, she said.

“Some people even offered to do my laundry for nothing, but I went with (Ma)Nkosi because she was the first one to respond and I could hear on the phone that she was terrified of going to the shops.”

Ailene Barlow, from East Town, near Northcliff, Johannesburg, turned to a community Facebook page with a similar request. She said she tried to do her laundry in a bucket, but the clothes didn’t come out clean.

“So many people offered to help me,” said Barlow.

When handing over her laundry basket, Barlow said she practised physical distancing with her neighbour. “I rang the bell and told her that I had left my laundry at her gate and she messaged me to come and collect it when it was ready.”

After her post, a neighbour gave Barlow a washing machine.

“This whole lockdown has been a positive experience for me. People in the community were willing to help each other in whatever way possible. The lockdown really put the people together and was a wake-up call for all that there are people who are worse off than you,” she said. 

Tatum Williams, from Westdene, Johannesburg, said she helped her neighbour, Msizi Bongo, who needed his laundry done. In return, he shopped for her. “I dreaded going to the shops. He posted on our street WhatsApp group and  I jumped at the opportunity,” said Williams.

“Going to the shops is really risky at the moment and requires a lot of energy. You start by queuing outside. I just didn’t have that energy. Doing someone’s laundry, with a washing machine in the comfort of my home, was a better thing to do,” she said.