Esmerald and Damike van Wyk among the ruins of their home. They were left homeless when 150 dwellings were destroyed in a fire at 7de Laan informal settlement in Valhalla Park on December 26.Pictures: BHEKI RADEBE/African News Agency/ANA
Esmerald and Damike van Wyk among the ruins of their home. They were left homeless when 150 dwellings were destroyed in a fire at 7de Laan informal settlement in Valhalla Park on December 26.Pictures: BHEKI RADEBE/African News Agency/ANA
Residents hunt through the rubble after a fire raged through the informal settlement at 7de Laan in Valhalla Park on December 26, leaving more than 300 people displaced.
Residents hunt through the rubble after a fire raged through the informal settlement at 7de Laan in Valhalla Park on December 26, leaving more than 300 people displaced.
AN NPO that assists destitute communities in the Western Cape has appealed for help in preparing children affected by a fire in 7de Laan in Valhalla Park for the new school term.

About 120 homes in the informal settlement were destroyed on December 26 last year, destroying the belongings of more than 640 people.

Spokesperson for the Mustadafin Foundation Ghairunisa Johnstone said there was a dire need for stationery and uniforms. The organisation was also working with authorities to help parents obtain birth certificates for registration.

“We are trying to help the community members rebuild their lives.”

Mustadafin has been supplying members with relief aid such as food hampers, blankets and crockery. But Johnstone said help needed to extend beyond food aid and include training and life skills - particularly for the vulnerable, such as women and children.

“The issues are broader than just recovering from a fire, there’s socio-economic issues to deal with such as the effects of gangsterism and trauma. We’re looking into hiring psychologists to give people coping skills. So this won’t be a short-term solution,” Johnstone added.

A resident whose shack was burnt down but who did not want to be identified said she would be approaching the schools where her children attend to explain that they would have to start the term later than the other pupils.

“Their uniforms and books were burnt in the fire. We tried to grab some stuff but it was too late, the fire was raging fast. We lost birth certificates, IDs and other important belongings, including bank cards. So we have to start all over again,” she said.

Affected residents were being temporarily housed in a community hall soon after the fire, but most have now found temporary accommodation with friends and families. Others were attempting to start rebuilding their homes using donated materials.

Some retailers and companies donated items which Johnstone said were being distributed to the residents.

There had been claims that before the organisation took over the co-ordination and distribution of the relief aid, some materials had disappeared and not reached the victims.

But Johnstone commended the work of some community leaders, and added they were now looking at training people in fire prevention methods.