Aid to fi­re victims all y­e­ar round

Knysna-Plett Herald - - News | Nuus - N­wa­bi­sa Pon­do­yi

The Knys­na fi­res on 7 Ju­ne that left the to­wn de­va­sta­ted, al­so led to un­pre­ce­den­ted re­lief acti­on, with ma­ny or­ga­ni­sa­ti­ons joi­ning hands to help fi­re victims re­group and re­build. One such or­ga­ni­sa­ti­on has been hel­ping fi­re victims from as e­ar­ly as 1960, w­hen the Knys­na Wo­men’s As­so­ci­a­ti­on was foun­ded to help tho­se in need; it la­ter e­vol­ved in­to the Knys­na Di­sas­ter Fund (KDF), w­ho­se pri­ma­ry pur­po­se it is to as­sist lo­cal fi­re victims all y­e­ar round.

For mo­re than 25 y­e­ars, the fund has been wor­king qui­et­ly in the back­ground as­sis­ting pe­op­le from the towns­hips, w­he­re fi­res are a fre­quent occur­ren­ce, and in Sep­tem­ber al­o­ne, the fund has hel­ped 40 victims from 11 fi­res lo­cal­ly.

Mas­si­ve need a­ro­se o­ver­nig­ht

But three mont­hs e­ar­lier, in Ju­ne this y­e­ar, they say no­thing could ha­ve pre­pa­red them for the mas­si­ve need that a­ro­se li­te­ral­ly o­ver­nig­ht. By Mon­day 12 Ju­ne, fi­ve days af­ter the fi­res, KDF’s two s­mall sto­re­rooms at Child Wel­fa­re in Wa­ter­front D­ri­ve we­re “vir­tu­al­ly mob­bed and cle­a­ned out”, says KDF se­cre­ta­ry Jill Mor­se. It was cle­ar that the fund’s li­mi­ted re­sour­ces, which co­ve­r­ed a­bout 50 fi­res an­nu­al­ly hel­ping a­round 150 af­fected pe­op­le, we­re not a­ble to co­pe with the ex­cep­ti­o­nal de­mand. Du­ring the next few days, their sto­re­rooms we­re re­ple­nis­hed from the in­co­ming do­na­ti­ons at the bed­ding and clo­thing de­pot at Wood­mill Walk.

Du­ring the re­lief ef­forts, the fund’s mem­bers im­mer­sed them­sel­ves in the e­nor­mous task at hand, at va­ri­ous cen­tres a­cross Knys­na.

‘Back-bre­a­king’ re­lief ef­forts

“Tho­se mem­bers not im­me­di­a­te­ly de­a­ling with the af­ter­math of loss of pro­per­ty we­re hel­ping either in the to­wn cen­tral’s sor­ting a­re­as or at church-or­ga­ni­sed ve­nues. Our chai­r­per­son Daphne Hen­nes­sey, in her mid-80s, was found at S­pring S­treet on that F­ri­day sor­ting shoes, a back-bre­a­king task!” re­calls Mor­se.

Du­ring the first week af­ter the Ju­ne fi­res, Mor­se took o­ver the run­ning of the clo­thing and bed­ding sor­ting de­pot at Wood­mill Walk, says Mor­se. In the four weeks that the fa­ci­li­ty was run­ning, the­re we­re dai­ly de­li­ve­ries of do­na­ti­ons, with e­nor­mous trucks and bak­kies from all o­ver the coun­try li­ning up to of­flo­ad.

“The­re we­re ti­mes w­hen the­re we­re two hu­man chains pas­sing bags and boxes from vehi­cles to the lo­a­ding bay, w­he­re a con­stant stre­am of run­ners was ta­king trol­ley-lo­ads of do­na­ti­ons in­to the old Ed­gars shop for sor­ting,” says Mor­se, ad­ding that so­me 60 lo­cal vo­lun­teers we­re hel­ping to sift through and sort out the do­na­ted goods. On­going li­ai­son with ot­her fa­ci­li­ties in Knys­na en­su­red that the dif­fe­rent re­lief cen­tres could help e­ach ot­her with w­hat was nee­ded at any gi­ven ti­me by swap­ping out food, toi­le­tries, clo­thing, bed­ding etc as and w­hen it was re­qui­red.

And the tins ratt­led…

Back to the pre­sent, on Sa­tur­day 28 Oc­to­ber, the fund “ratt­led” col­lecti­on tins a­round the to­wn – this is their on­ly form of fun­drai­sing to buy main­ly kit­chen­wa­re but al­so ot­her i­tems that are not do­na­ted, such as toi­le­tries.

Mor­se than­ked ge­ne­rous Knys­na re­si­dents for their con­ti­nu­ed sup­port and the vo­lun­teers who hel­ped ratt­le the tins. She ad­ded that this had been their be­st col­lecti­on yet and that they had to chan­ge tins at le­ast four ti­mes. Chai­r­per­son Daphne Hen­nes­sey adds, “Pe­op­le are now much mo­re a­wa­re of the de­va­sta­ting ef­fect a fi­re can ha­ve on the li­ves of fi­re victims, and by put­ting a do­na­ti­on in the col­lecti­on you re­al­ly are hel­ping – e­very cent is u­sed to pro­vi­de i­tems nee­ded.”

The di­sas­ter fund al­so acti­ve­ly sup­ports the victim sup­port u­nit at SAPS Knys­na, pro­vi­ding toi­letry ca­re packs and clo­thing for ra­pe victims, and KDF li­ai­ses with the Ro­ta­ry An­nes and the vo­lun­ta­ry coor­di­na­tor from the Bap­tist Church to help pro­vi­de i­tems for the com­fort room at Knys­na

Pro­vin­ci­al Hos­pi­tal w­he­re ra­pe and do­mes­tic a­bu­se victims are ta­ken.

Pe­op­le can al­so help out by gi­ving their ti­me, in the form of vo­lun­teer­ing, says Hen­nes­sey. This in­vol­ves being a­vai­la­ble to help fi­re victims for the mor­nings of one week in two mont­hs. “You just need to be at the end of a p­ho­ne du­ring that ti­me,” she says. “We al­so meet for an hour or so monthly to ca­tch up and dis­cuss our work, look­ing at ot­her ways we can sup­port our com­mu­ni­ty.”

* If you’d li­ke to k­now mo­re, ple­a­se con­tact Daphne Hen­nes­sey on 044 384 0075 or Jill Mor­se 074 474 8368.

P­ho­to: Sup­p­lied

In the weeks fol­lo­wing the fi­res, w­hen re­lief cen­tres we­re at their bu­siest, the­re we­re dai­ly de­li­ve­ries of do­na­ti­ons, with e­nor­mous trucks and bak­kies from all o­ver the coun­try li­ning up to of­flo­ad.

P­ho­to: N­wa­bi­sa Pon­do­yi

Lois K­leyn was one of the ma­ny vo­lun­teers who ratt­led tins on Sa­tur­day 28 Oc­to­ber, which pro­ved Knys­na Di­sas­ter Fund’s be­st col­lecti­on yet.

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