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Virginia airport disaster team ready to roll in any emergency

Donations mount for post-flood disasters in a hangar at Virginia Airport from where volunteers, from left, Sonja Horseley, Elham Hatfield and Shareen Jordaan, run the organisation Disaster Relief Support. Picture: Shelley Kjonstad/African News Agency (ANA)

Donations mount for post-flood disasters in a hangar at Virginia Airport from where volunteers, from left, Sonja Horseley, Elham Hatfield and Shareen Jordaan, run the organisation Disaster Relief Support. Picture: Shelley Kjonstad/African News Agency (ANA)

Published Aug 6, 2022

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Durban - The floods that gave birth to a vibrant relief organisation based at Virginia Airport have come and gone.

They may come again. But in the meantime there’s plenty to keep the Disaster Relief Support volunteers busy and on their toes.

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SOLDIERING on after the floods, from left, Shareen Jordaan, Elham Hatfield and Sonja Horseley of the Disaster Relief Support organisation, working out of Virginia Airport. l SHELLEY KJONSTAD/African News Agency (ANA)

“We decided to carry on because Mother Nature never stops,” explained Elham Hatfield in a strong French accent and just after providing relief at the site of 50 shack fires at Phoenix.

This followed an earlier call to many more in Effingham. More routinely, the organisation sends bottled water to uThongathi, where flood damage to the local waterworks has left taps dry for months.

Providing emergency relief is in her blood and part of her nature, she told the Independent on Saturday.

The providing part comes from her Moroccan father who, whenever they visited his home country from France, brought things for poor people.

The emergency part is far more romantically French.

“I came out to South Africa on a holiday to visit relatives. One of them had an accident at Sibaya Circle, which emergency workers attended to.

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“When the man driving the fire engine and my eyes met… voila.”

And with his surname being Hatfield, the rest is history.

But back to the grindstone.

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“So (after the floods), we decided to carry on. When we have an emergency, a disaster, small or big, we step in and help with the help of the entire community.”

Their motto is “from community to community”, without anyone in the middle.

They involve members of the recipient communities by offering a few a living to help with distribution.

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“I want to involve them to uplift them and make them feel important after they have usually lost everything,” Hatfield said.

She added that the “from community to community” approach has traction when it comes to winning the trust of donors to drop off basic necessities at various outlets on three set days each month: the first, the 15th and the 30th, at Virginia Airport.

Water, medical packs, clothes and non-perishable goods come packed in containers ranging from suitcases to black bin bags. They’re stacked neatly in a hangar they share with numerous aircraft.

Help has been forthcoming from the Lions and Rotary service clubs; Alms Fazeela Mitha; Alms for Humanity; and the Khidmatul Khalq Foundation.

A typical recipient of the Disaster Relief Support’s hampers is someone who comes home from work and finds their shack burnt to the ground. They immediately need food, clothes and blankets.

“We step into emergencies as the first respondents. When disasters happen, we are ready to drop, until the bigger organisations step in,” says Sonja Horseley.

Emergencies vary in nature. One family whose home was destroyed in the floods, hit a double whammy: a couple of months later when, after saving up for a deposit for a new home to rent, they were conned.

The woman was pregnant.

“They got into a shelter and then a month later the baby was born. So, we rallied up volunteers in Durban North and got them a baby starter pack, toiletries for her and clothes.”

She stresses that they are always at the ready, whether to provide relief for low-key emergencies or for something big.

“The floods could come back tomorrow,” Hatfield stressed.

Volunteer Shareen Jordaan keeps the world informed on the organisation’s progress through the Facebook and Instagram pages entitled Disaster Relief Support.

Beachwood Country Club day will be the venue of a Disaster Relief Support Family Day to raise funds, offering live music, retail therapy, food and drinks, from 9.30am on Women’s Day on Tuesday.

The Independent on Saturday

Related Topics:

DurbanNatural Disaster

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