The story of YFC Knysna and how we became an unofficial Fire Relief Centre…..
We all went home early on the 7th of June, hating the wind and waiting for the storm to hit. We earlier during the morning talked about the fact that the road was closed towards Plett. We complained about the schools being closed because of “expected bad weather” and we had a meeting discussing possible ways of fundraising – a very normal day.
During the afternoon, evening and right through the night we however realised that Wednesday 7 June 2017 would never be classified as “normal”. We had our own personal fears, problems and experiences during the night and the following day but we soon realised that we had to get involved as we heard from some of our staff, volunteers and friends that lost houses and had damage to their properties.
Our plea for help started with the idea of only helping our immediate staff and volunteers, but this soon escalated to something major! Within hours of our e-mails going out, we received pledges and promises of assistance from all over South Africa. We converted our offices and multi-purpose room into a collection point, moving furniture out of the way, erecting tables for sorting, organising volunteers to help and even making crates from off-cut wood for all the clothes, food and other donations that we received. Money started to pour in and we had to quickly start a system whereby we could keep book and track of what was happening. It was very overwhelming for all of us and there was no manual which we could consult!
Volunteers started to arrive to help and we soon got involved with hundreds of people: Vetting them, doing counselling, handing out food parcels, clothes, bedding, toiletries, baby products etc, etc. We bought gift vouchers, food vouchers, fridges, stoves, microwaves, beds, linen, and even a Ukelele for a very talented girl who lost all her music equipment.
We have built a new house for one of our staff members who lost his house in Witlokasie. We assisted in building a new stable for a horse, buying tools and equipment for entrepreneurs who lost everything and wished we could help more as the need was so big!
We mainly focused on specific needs and if someone needed to be spoiled with a chocolate, flower or manicure, it was also seen to! We cried with many people and we laughed with even more as they were overjoyed by all the love.
Even though this was a terrible thing that happened to all of us (and we were all affected in one way or the other), we can also see the positive: We made so many new friends and we have seen the best in people. It was awesome to be of assistance and in a small way contribute to the rebuilding of Knysna and its surrounding areas. We look forward to the new growth that has already started and know that Knysna will in future be more beautiful than ever – not only the plants and vegetation, but also because of its people and the love that was so freely distributed by so many people out there. We feel humbled in playing a small part……..
At the end of November 2017 our Fire Relief Project officially came to an end but we will still be available to assist and counsel whoever might need our help. Thank you to all our donors, and especially to all the hard-working and dedicated volunteers who assisted with sorting and distributing on a daily basis. We have never seen so much love going around!