During the past week, Westville Baptist Church (WBC) and CAST have been absolutely overwhelmed by the outpouring of love from the general community, including local schools, churches, organisations, & businesses, for those affected or displaced by xenophobia violence.
It all started last week, when WBC/CAST put the word out as a donation drop-off location for those wanting to donate items for the families who had been displaced.
Over the weekend, CAST decided to focus our attention on the Red Cross Camp in Phoenix, which at the time was one of the newer camps set up for non South African families who had fled from the violence. In addition, we wanted to provide assistance for families in Durban Central that CAST already had a relationship with through schools and local churches.
As word got out over phone, social media, radio, and word of mouth, the donations came flooding in. At first we asked for food, hygiene products, and bedding. However, each day came with different needs from Phoenix and Durban Central, especially as the number of those displaced increased.
However, God prompted people to give as the needs increased. At first, CAST housed donations on the veranda of our building, but as the donations kept coming in over the weekend, WBC opened up their Youth Centre as a temporary donation warehouse.
Rachel Engelbrecht and Amy Benn, who both operate CAST’s Poverty Relief Department, directed the sorting, packing, and delivery of donations with the help of an amazing, round-the-clock volunteer team who tirelessly gave of their time to make sure donations were sent out to those in need.
Other CAST partner churches, such as West City Fellowship and Joy Chapel Ministries were also key to the relief effort, assisting the displacement camps, and even risking their lives to provide shelter for non South Africans.
Currently, most of the families at the Phoenix Camp have been sent on buses back to their home countries, especially those from Zimbabwe and Mozambique. For those who still remain in Durban, CAST plans to assist families with trauma counselling and a future reintegration or repatriation plan. Most families have been robbed or their homes looted, leaving them with absolutely nothing and terrified of returning to their communities. Many families also remain separated, with family members in different camps or shelters, and no way to contact each other.
Some highlights from the week regarding the amazing volunteers and donations:
-A Zimbabwean woman who was living in a safe area offered to take in another non South African living in a dangerous area.
-Life groups came together Wednesday night to put together “kiddie packs” with crayons, books, & toys for the children traveling back to their home countries so they wouldn’t get bored on the long bus ride.
-A member of WBC offered his bakkie plus petrol money to use for delivering relief donations all across Durban.
-Water buckets were collected for those at the Phoenix Camp, who all had to share one water tap.
-A member of WBC donated a bunch of old university thesis papers to be used for children to draw and do school work on.
These are just a few amazing testimonies of how people generously gave of their time and resources to make sure families affected by xenophobia violence were cared for!
Although the violence has slowed, CAST is still accepting donations for those refugees who cannot return home and are staying at shelters in Durban Central. We are still accepting bottled water, food, and baby stuff.
As we reflect back on the week’s events, let us pray for continued peace and protection over the families and individuals affected by the xenophobia violence. Isolated events of xenophobia violence continue to occur, especially on public transport.
And let us remember Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:16: “In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”
*Please note that photos of xenophobia victims have not been included in this update in order to honour the safety and dignity of those affected.