THE GREAT KNYSNA FIRE, June 2017
You may have heard about the devastating fires that ravaged the Garden Route area of South Africa over the past week. No words can truly describe the heartbreak of the lives lost, homes and school burnt to ashes and people losing absolutely everything. 10,000 people were evacuated from their homes and hundreds of people have now been permanently displaced with over 600 houses destroyed.
However, there are also truly no words to describe the incredible positivity and community spirit that came together to fund, feed and try to start rebuilding the town and its people and animals.
And Travellers was right in the middle of the chaos, with our South African Manager, Sharon Dreyer, making sure our volunteers were safe and fighting for her own home, for our volunteer house! Fortunately, Sharon’s home only sustained relatively minor damage, and miraculously, our beautiful volunteer house (which is surrounded by indigenous forest and constantly at risk), remained untouched … by a thread.
TRAVELLERS HOSTS THE HEROES
100% of the above fortune is owed to the true heroes and life-savers (literally) … our Fire-Fighters! With fires flaring up constantly in various areas, hundreds of firemen and woman travelled from all over the country to help combat the unrelenting fires.
Seven of the fireman have been hosted at our volunteer house, which definitely made us one of the safest houses in the area! These amazing guys had been sleeping in their fire-truck after exhausting long-hour days putting out enormous fires, but we were able to provide beds for them and somewhere to wash and eat before they went back to tackling fires again.
We are also so very proud of our veterinary medicine intern from the USA, Alanna Wildman, who had only just arrived in Knysna. And, despite being evacuated from our volunteer house due to the Knysna fires before she's even settled in, she still had a smile on her face helping offload donations for Knysna Animal Welfare. Since then she has also volunteered time on her weekend packing food donations for the community. She truly is a star, assisting where she can! Welcome to Knysna, Alanna :-)
THE WAY FORWARD - KNYSNA NEEDS YOU
The fires have now passed, leaving smoldering ash where homes once stood. The rebuilding has begun, but it will be long path until all those affected have found some sense of normality.
However, Knysna needs you! Short-term help and Long-term help is needed to:
- Pack up parcels of donations for those who lost everything except the clothes they stand up in
- Distributing other donations where needed
- Collecting and buying food to throw out for the wildlife (nearly all their natural habitat is destroyed and there is nothing for them to eat or drink), so it's important to walk through the destroyed areas and throw out food for them to forage
- Shopping for and distributing everyday necessities to the kids who have nothing - 43 of the children in just one of the schools we work with are now homeless and we're trying to give them basics, such as clothes, toiletries, food ...
- And not only the children, but the thousands of adults in the same situation! Winter is here and they need blankets, amongst other things. 200 of the houses in the Township that we work in have been completely destroyed
- There are many children who now have no school books or stationery, so that needs to be bought and distributed to them
- Our Manageer, Sharon, and our volunteers are spending a lot of time trying to track down missing pets which were abandoned during the fires, to try to reunite them with their owners - particularly cats as they have been the worst affected.
- Help is also needed by the Veterinary Project who are currently dealing with thousands of injured animals - wildlife and domestic. The burden on them is enormous.
- It's also very important for volunteers to continue with everyday activities, like teaching the children in the schools and working on the care projects. This is crucial to bring back some normality into their lives. You'll help to reinforce a perception of a stable and normal everyday activity to kids whose lives have changed dramatically.
All the above is both short-term and long-term help that's needed to get this entire community back on its feet. And then, of course, the rebuilding of the homes in and out of the township will have to start ...
If you think you'd like to get involved in helping this town get back on its feet, below is a list of the projects in Knysna where you can help, and at the same time, in the afternoons, give your assistance on all the above items - it would be hugely appreciated!
If you'd like to DONATE to this very needy cause, we guarantee that all of your donation will go to buying necessary supplies for those left homeless, people and animals. Thanks you soooo much!
CLICK HERE TO MAKE A DONATION
All donations will be handled through our affiliated charity, The Bridge The Gap Foundation. Thank you again.