House with a Sign – in a little quiet neighbourhood, a beautiful “lockdown moment in history” is busy being born.
Vanderbijlpark, South Africa (04 January 2020) – The Van Vuuren family started putting signs outside their house at the start of the Level 4 Lockdown in South Africa to encourage their neighbours and anyone who sees them that we will be okay!
After the very first month of lockdown passed the husband, wife, and three daughters were feeling very isolated. Their community is very quiet, and generally, everyone keeps to themselves.
“People walk past, and it’s a quick hi and look forward. We wanted to communicate to the outside world and put ourselves out there. We also just wanted to share and be kind and generous during such uncertain times. We often left gifts outside for anyone to take… it was a great family activity and great creative outlet.”
Neil Van Vuuren explains that Ellouis is a social worker by trade, and she enforces the value of mindfulness and thoughtfulness in their three girls. It was her idea to start putting encouraging quote posters outside in the hope that it could brighten up anyone who walked past. She is a firm believer in the therapeutic value of creativity.
“But making these posters was also such a great time to discuss fears and worries. The most truthful reason is that it serves as a daily pep talk for us as a family. As parents we are scared, like everyone else we have had to navigate such stressful realities that keep us up at times, we have had significant loss of income, and the future doesn’t always seem bright. We needed to read what was on our signs the most. We needed daily encouragement. We needed a house with a sign”.
The family put themselves “out there” and in the process have met so many street neighbours.
Neil and Ellouis say that choosing what to draw and write was easy as the entire family love positive quotes.
“What we wrote down was something we try and live and what we love. It became a real excitement to decide what to do for the next day. We all had turns making our signs, and we absolutely loved it. We have 3 daughters, aged 11, 9 and 5 and they were very much a part of it. I left them to decide and create their own signs. They were fun and colourful with a lot of children movie inspiration.
Only their little 5-year-old needed help. She would tell her parents what she would like to do, and they would assist her. She would write over the words they wrote in pencil and then would colour and draw.”
“We all had turns to do our signs, and yes, we did draw them all. The girls grew in their confidence as they saw what they could accomplish. As it progressed, you could see their drawings get more elaborate, and I could see their smug feelings of accomplishment. It gave us great joy discussing all the quotes with our daughters too.”
Even though the family had spent so much time making signs, at first, they didn’t know if people were encouraged by them or even if they saw it. Their street is quiet and doesn’t get a lot of foot traffic, and the family didn’t wait outside to see.
One day they found a letter in the postbox from a community neighbour they didn’t know at all who lives about 2,5km away just saying thank you for their daily signs.
“She said she would like to bake us cupcakes and come meet us. She put her name and contact number in the letter, and I contacted her. We met and became walk by friends. We found a few other letters and thank you tokens”
On one specific day, they asked (on the sign) if people were enjoying it.
“We left a pen, and many people wrote on the sign saying how it encourages them. When we were outside, people would walk past and stop and say thank you for the signs and the small gifts. When we put all the signs up along our wall last week, people asked us to leave them up. We left them up for a while, but winds forced us to take them down as they were being blown off.”
The family will continue making signs as long as people still need encouragement… and who knows, perhaps in a little quiet neighbourhood, a beautiful “lockdown moment in history” is busy being born.
Check out their Instagram page here to see some of the artwork.