On Tuesday this week, Thula Thula Foundation co-ordinator Casey Dolan turned to the organisation’s founder, Jo-Anne Chemaly, to ask whether she had any T-shirts to give to volunteers so they could be identified.
“Jo just looked at me. Prior to the Imizamo Yethu fires, we had 12 volunteers. Now we have hundreds.”
The manner in which Hout Bay residents, the people of Cape Town and corporate entities have rallied in support of the Imizamo Yethu fire victims has been nothing short of remarkable. From schoolchildren who have donated their most treasured possessions to companies which have parted with millions of rands, no stone has been left unturned in ensuring victims receive the necessary aid.
With more than 15 000 affected residents needing to be registered before foodstuffs, water, clothing and other essentials could be disbursed, organising the relief effort has not been without its challenges. However, the goodwill shown by so many thousands of people has spurred volunteers to keep going, even though they have had little sleep.
This week, Thula Thula received donations at Ambleside Primary which were then collected by registered fire victims at the Hout Bay Sports Complex. Other collection points were also established at Kronendal Primary, the police station, Pick * Pay Hout Bay, Red Cross in Wynberg, and Hout Bay fire station.
At each of these, entire floors are covered in donated goods, with more coming in every hour. Empty shop shelves bear testimony to the extent residents have opened their hearts – and wallets – to the cause.
“We have had such an outpouring of support. All the major chain stores have contributed, and, of course, people keep bringing in goods. We are so grateful,” Ms Dolan said.
“We have been sorting through all the goods at Ambleside, and at the sports field, registered victims are receiving everything their families need. It is taking a long time to register everyone, but it is a process that works.”
She said there had been people who were delivering goods directly to Imizamo Yethu, but she urged residents not to do so.
“There are a lot of rebuilding efforts going on, so the area can become congested. It is better to donate at Thula Thula, so we can get the goods to the people at the sports field.”
While all efforts were appreciated, Ms Dolan said, they would have to be ongoing.
“The truth is despite all we have received, it’s already not enough. This will need to go on for more than a month, possibly longer. We are appealing especially for toiletries, baby clothes and children’s shoes. And we can never have enough water.”
Ms Dolan said there had been some “negative comments” on social media about how the donated monies were reaching the fire victims.
“These are silly comments. We have a team of volunteers who have set their lives aside and don’t earn a cent. But we’ve met with those organisations who had a moan, and now everyone is on the same page.”
The City’s disaster risk management centre is co-ordinating efforts through its non-governmental partners, the Red Cross Society, the Mustadafin Foundation and Historically Disadvantaged Individuals (HDI).
To date, the Red Cross has distributed 28 000 meals, 8 000 blankets, 600 baby packs and 1 000 mattress; HDI 2 100 meals, 1 800 brunch packages, 6 000 blankets; and the Mustadafin Foundation 20 000 meals and 9 000 brunch packs.
Gift of the Givers has been working closely with Thula Thula, and were on the scene from 1pm on Saturday.
“Initially the reported numbers of affected people were very low, but we later did our own assessment and established there could be as many as 15 000 people affected,” said the organisation’s Western Cape project manager, Saadiq Natha.
“We have been providing humanitarian aid and water and blankets. We are in partnership with Thula Thula, and we are assisting them with logistics, transporting items to those in need. This is the first stage of the process. The second stage will see us providing food parcels, hygiene packs and stationery and school uniforms for children.”
According to Western Cape Education MEC Debbie Schäfer, pupils from three schools, in particular, Silikamva High, Oranjekloof Moravian Primary, and Disa Primary, were affected by the
About 120 pupils at Silikamva High lost all of their possessions. Principal Angus Duffett and his staff and partners, The Respond Network and the The Warehouse, have worked tirelessly to replace uniforms and textbooks, and generally to provide relief.
Silikamva is working jointly with Oranjekloof to identify needs and organise relief. Common Good, the department’s operating partner at Oranjekloof, has donated R100 000 towards replacing uniforms and textbooks.
Most pupils at the school live in Imizamo Yethu.
The homes of about 100 pupils at Disa Primary burnt down, along with those of three teachers. About 350 families with children at Disa are looking after family members affected by the fire.
Gerda van der Westhuizen, the principal, said the school had supplied all affected pupils with uniforms from the school shop and had replaced their textbooks.
The involvement of companies in the relief efforts has been welcomed by all on the ground.
Hout Bay Spar immediately took up a collection for fire victims, to which the response was overwhelming. Hout Bay Spar and Oakhurst Spar also donated pallets of necessities to the stricken community.
Oceana has donated over
30 000 cans of Lucky Star pilchards to the approximate value of
R300 000 for immediate relief.
“This tragedy has left many families within this community destitute,” said Oceana chief executive, Francois Kuttel.
“We specifically chose to donate Lucky Star cans which can be easily opened with a ring-pull as most of the victims have had all their belongings destroyed and only managed to escape with the clothes that they were wearing. Our company has a history in Hout Bay going back more than 60 years and this community is very close to our hearts. Our thoughts and prayers are with those who have lost family, friends and their homes in this terrible disaster.”
The Shoprite group brought in a mobile soup kitchen, providing hot meals for those affected for the duration of the week.
Care hampers containing bottled water, grab-and-go meals, energy bars, energy drinks and toiletries have been made available to both the teams fighting the fires on the ground as well as the impacted community, while chicken, beans, fresh fruit and vegetables have been donated to organisations such as the Red Cross which are providing additional support with feeding schemes in the community.
“Customers who wanted to support the disaster relief efforts in the area were encouraged to do so by donating from R5 or more to the group’s #ActForChange Fund at the till point of any Shoprite or Checkers store across the country. All proceeds from the fund up to the end of March will be donated directly to relief efforts in the area,” a spokesperson said.
Huge sums of money have also been donated by Kfm, Old Mutual, Clicks and Virgin Active.
Anthony Stroebel, marketing manager at Pam Golding Properties and co-founder of the Bay Harbour Market, set up a campaign on the crowdfunding platform Backabuddy and has already raised more than R200 000 for the victims of the fire. Those wishing to donate can log onto https://www.backabuddy.co.za/champion/project/fire-relief-fund-for-imizamo-yethu or call Mr Stroebel on 083 275 5586.