Relief efforts: faces behind familiar names Instrumental in other areas, too
When the fires broke out in Knysna on 7 June, Knysna locals Doné Else and her partner, Bruce Bartie started a Facebook page called Knysna Fires 7th June which is still going strong.
Else is an administrator on the KGG Facebook page and Bartie specialises in computers.
At a time when most other communication channels were down, Else and Bartie posted constant updates during the fire and as a result, the page quickly attracted a large number of followers.
Notwithstanding the fact that the fires occurred more than a hundred days ago, these numbers have not diminished and by the time of going to print, this Facebook page had 50 760 people liking it and 53 956 followers.
During the first few weeks following the fires, Bartie said, they received daily up to 1 500 Facebook messages, were handling hundreds of phone calls and countless emails in order to facilitate the vast amount of donations of goods to Knysna – the total of which has already exceeded 1 500 tons, and over 60% of which was facilitated by them.
To date, he said, they have also facilitated the delivery of more than R3-million in donations to various groups and organisations assisting fire victims.
Trust account set up
Once the couple realised the extent of the help coming in, a trust account was set up – overseen by the law firm Anthony-Gooden Inc in Port Elizabeth – to collect and distribute donations.
As of 8 September, Bartie said that R242 068.72 of the R261 155.18 donated to the trust fund had been spent assisting various individuals and organisations.
Among other recipients, he said, KAWS received more than R20 000; Rheenendal fire management unit R49 754; Ningmo foods received R10 000 to assist with meals for victims and those hosting victims; while R153 175.50 was spent on furniture and appliances for victims, by means of vouchers from @Home.
Bartie stated that the success of the reach and interaction of the page has been heightened by the fact that he had been contacted by the University of the Free State (UFS) and NorthWest University, whose researchers want to study social media and the impact it has on followers, specifically relating to disaster management, by using the information gathered by the administrators of the page.
The results will be incorporated into the universities’ curriculum for social media studies.
Dr Mercia Coetzee from UFS explained: “As part of my research on the use of Facebook during disasters, I investigated a few community Facebook pages from all over the world. Knysna Fires 7th June stands out as an example of how a Facebook page can support a community in crisis – not only during the first few days of disaster and chaos but in helping the community to stand up and rebuild. The way the page is managed is an example of what can be achieved and can serve as an example to other similar groups.”
Bartie said they were also approached by the Classics is Groot concert director Brendon Hargroves, to identify local businesses and tradespeople who had lost the means to earn their livelihoods and pay their staff, and who could benefit from funds raised by a benefit concert.
These donations were handed over on 16 September, as reported in this paper on 21 September.
Annarie Hugo, Barry Pretorius and Ian Vos of the Classics is Groot team travelled to Knysna to meet with the recipients and hand over the funds.
In addition to this, after overtures were received from suppliers, Else and Bartie put the word out and victims supplied shoe and underwear sizes, and donations of new footwear and underwear were made by the SA Footwear and Leather Industries Association and Jockey underwear. Tools, furniture, appliances and other donations are still being collected and stored for victims until needed – once houses have been rebuilt.
The couple’s home soon started resembling a storage depot, Bartie said, so much so that when Else’s mother came to visit, accommodation had to be found elsewhere because the house had been full to the hilt with donations, as is still the case. It is for this reason that the couple are desperately looking for a storage container and anybody who may be able to assist is asked to contact them on 044 382 0266.
Have any spare change?
Bartie and Else have also started another initiative, the FFFF Challenge (Fifty Rand Fundraiser for Friends in the Fire), with the message that “your small change can make a big change”, whereby people are encouraged to save coins and when the total reaches R50, it can be donated to the fund.
This fundraising effort is accompanied by a raffle, with prizes worth more than R20 000.
For those who wish to accept the challenge, the banking details are: Knysna Fires, ABSA bank, branch code 632005, account 9329935490.
To stay abreast of the initiatives being run, simply “like the Facebook page “Knysna Fires 7th June”.
Bruce Bartie and Doné Else with their daughters Keira-Leigh and Kendra.