Somewhere on the small island of Baybay in the Philippines, a small guard room supported by two tents serves as the Mandela Medical Centre, assisting thousands of people who were injured by super typhoon Haiyian.
The temporary clinic was set up two weeks ago by a group of men and women from Tshwane Emergency Services and volunteers from Rescue South Africa, to provide aid to Abuyog District Hospital after its roof was blown away when the typhoon carved a path of destruction through the islands.
The team - consisting of medical aid workers, doctors, search and rescue specialists and other volunteers - arrived on the islands a week after the typhoon, as the death toll continued to rise and the extent of devastation was becoming clear.
Charles Mabaso, Prince Manganye, Sylvia Maimane, Lindsay Mnguni, Ludwig Goldschagg, Refilwe Kgokane and Cornelius Kruger were among those who flew out to represent Pretoria.
On their return, some spoke to the Pretoria News about their experience helping scores of people with injuries.
Kgokane, who left behind a year-old son, said she assisted more than 700 people in two weeks.
“When we left we didn’t know what to expect, but knew it was going to be difficult. The weather was terrible. It rained most of the time and remained humid.
“At times I felt like giving up but the humbleness of those people kept me going. No matter what they had been through and what they were still experiencing, they always had a smile on their faces and made us feel so appreciated for coming to help them,” the young mother said.
Mabaso, the unit commander who led another team to the islands, said he was extremely proud of his team for handling the situation like experts and continuously giving their help in any way they could.
“When we arrived on the first day we set up camp in a hostel that had had its roof blown off. We repaired the plumbing system, which had been damaged, so we could have running water.
“We saw the extent of the damage and the number of people who needed immediate attention and started working on getting the clinic up. Within the first day we assisted over 200 people.”
Most of the injuries they dealt with were open wounds that were beginning to turn septic. After setting up the clinic, the team started reconstruction of the roof of Abuyog District Hospital and left it 70 percent complete, but wish they could have done more.
“There is so much more that those people need. Many are still without homes, running water or food. If I could have stayed to provide more aid, I would have,” said Manganye.
“The work you do is so rewardable because those people are so humble.
“They say thank you all the time for every little thing you do.
“It feels amazing knowing the work you are doing is appreciated so much.”
Mabaso said only when he returned home last Thursday and got stuck in the severe hailstorm that strruck Gauteng did he realise for the first time what the victims of the typhoon had gone through.
“I saw that big black cloud approaching and then it just started pouring down with hail and rain.
“The wind was extreme and for the first time I had a glimpse of what those people went through. It became reality of just how bad it was for them. Yet they still remain objective and humble. It makes one so much more appreciative of what we have and take for granted. I’ve seen poverty in this country, but going that side and seeing how people have way less made me so grateful, and that also makes me want to do more for my country and others.”
The team agreed that it was a humbling experience and one they would be honoured to repeat should the opportunity arise.