The Everyday Heroes research study conducted in October saw hundreds of South Africans responding to a variety of questions relating to their economic activity before and throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, as well as the assistance they offered, received, or witnessed.

The survey, conducted by Nedbank, shows that despite the severe impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, which affected 94% of South African respondents, 82% of people surveyed demonstrated their remarkable acts of service and compassion. One of the highlights of the study was that despite drastic changes in their financial positions, most respondents served their communities through acts of sacrifice for those in need.

“We believe that there is power in quantifying and celebrating good. We have seen the resilience of ordinary South Africans, and while they may not necessarily be frontline workers, they too have felt the worst kind of financial strain during this period,” said Buli Ndlovu, Executive: Retail and Business Banking Marketing at Nedbank.

“Speaking to this need, the financial services sector played a key part in alleviating the pressure on adversely affected South Africans.  Nedbank provided payment relief to over 400 000 clients, amounting to more than R121 billion during this period.

“It was important for us to constantly monitor customer sentiment and this study helped to further measure the true value of Covid-19 heroism. What was heart-warming to notice, is that although consumers were hard-hit during the crisis, they showed up in ways that were compassionate and displayed real generosity,” she said.

Out of these everyday heroes, 55% donated clothes to the less fortunate, 23% bought groceries to give away, and 17% helped pack food parcels. Others performed acts of service, from tutoring or babysitting children, volunteering for Covid-19 relief charities, or continuing to contribute to people’s salaries.

The study revealed that of the respondents who were working before lockdown, only 22% were still working under the same conditions (same hours and income). Furthermore, 59% are working from home, 23% are working reduced hours, 10% are working for less pay and 8% were temporarily laid off or placed on furlough.

The result was that 54% of respondents are now either living in homes that rely on a single income or live in households where there is no income at all or rely solely on a Government grant.

“Whatever their situation may be, no one escaped the tremendous pressure that this pandemic has put on the country and the world at large. Despite the shock on people’s financial and psychological health, the resilient nature of South Africans shone through, as they devised strategies to mitigate against these tough times. For instance, 40% of people scaled back on certain food items, while 38% spent less on special (luxury) items,” says Ndlovu.

This period brought unexpected positives, as 35% reported they appreciated having fewer expenses in their lives, 36% were thankful for the quality time they had with family and 17% started eating healthier food.

“The most captivating part of the study was the wealth of individual testimonies people shared, whether they helped through acts of service or monetarily,” Ndlovu says. “For instance, we heard the story of a selfless community leader who looked after the children in his neighbourhood while schools were suspended, as well as an entrepreneur who cancelled his lease to pay the salaries of his two employees, opting to sleep in his car.

“From single-parent households looking after their children while sending money home to recently unemployed relatives, to families donating food parcels to the less fortunate, there was no end to the compassion that South Africans demonstrated.

“As a bank that is at the forefront of driving financial inclusion through zero-based solutions, it’s inspiring to see that our ethos of being purpose-led and using financial expertise to do good is aligned with the spirit of sacrifice demonstrated by South Africa’s citizens,” she said.