YFC Knysna

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Knysna Fire Disaster and the role YFC are playing

It is nearly a month after “The Fire” that roared through Knysna on Wednesday, 7 June!  It started as a beautiful Winter’s day, and no-one knew what was awaiting the beautiful town of Knysna.  It feels much longer than a month, and, yes, we call the Knysna Fire Disaster, “The Fire”.   This was exactly what it was: a huge, terrible, frightening, all-comsuming, devastating, heartbreaking, destructive fire that rushed through our town at an incredible speed.  The wind behind the flames were approxiately blowing at 100 – 120 km/h! The feeling of being surrounded by fire and being cut off from the outside world was very scary. It was especially frightening for those who were separated from their loved ones.

Our bookkeeper, Vinessa, could not get back ho me to Sedgefield.  The result was that she was anxious about her family for most of the night.  Many families were split up and  unsure as to the safety of their friends and family.  Not many people slept during the night of the 7th of June.  One could only guess at what it would look like when daylight came.  No-one however could imagine the devastation that greeted them through the smoke that was everywhere.

People greet each other with “Is your house still standing?” and not the usual “How are you?”  Even after a few weeks, most people are still very overwhelmed by the Knysna Fire Disaster.  Often someone would comment that “it feels as if I am dreaming and will wake up soon from a nightmare!”

At the time The Fire hit Knysna, it was obviously a very bad and negative experience.  Looking back we also realise that a lot of good came out of this disaster that is classified as “one of the biggest disasters that hit South Africa”.  So many people came alongside the citizens of Knysna and showered them with love and care.  Lasting friendships and contacts were made.  For us here at YFC a new role and purpose were cast, whether we wanted it or not.

From the moment we sent out e-mails and put our request for assistance on Facebook, we were inundated with donations in various forms – from money to clothes, food, medicine, etc.  For the past month we have been receiving, sorting and handing out various goods to people that we came into contact with.  We do home visits, counsel, validate the need and try and come alongside men, women and children in various ways.  This varies from meeting needs by purchasing gift vouchers, helping people re-build their houses, giving out food parcels and clothes and giving advice.

This will definately be going on for quite a while as we want to be able to assist where we can, not only now, but in the medium and long-term as well.  It is a privilege to be able to play a major role in giving back people’s dignity, and helping them building their lives from scratch.  It is heart-wrenching to speak to someone who is 64 years old and now only has her car, two cats and laptop left of her life.  Expressions on faces range from stunned, blank, sad, overwhelmed and negative to positive and looking forward to everything that is going to be new and fresh.

One of our ex-volunteers from Germany wrote to us and said:

“Knysna, I can’t stop thinking of you.  Of all the pain and suffering you are going through.  But I know that there are so many people investing in restoring hearts, souls, homes and properties – people investing time, money, food, clothes and all their strength!  The Lord is in control!”

She also sent us the following Franciscan benediction:

“May God bless your with anger at injustice, oppression and exploitation of people – so that you may work for justice, freedom and peace.

May God bless you with tears to shed for those who suffer pain, rejection, hunger and sadness so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and turn their pain into joy.

May God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that you can make a difference in the world so that you can do what others claim cannot be done – to bring justice and kindness to all”

We here at YFC believe that we have to “Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible – Francis of Assisi” and this is exactly what we are aiming to do – now and in the future!

Elize Schroder


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