“Teach us, good Lord…to give and not to count the cost,”…part of Spanish theologian Ignatius of Loyola’s well-known prayer sums up the true heart of what it means to be a volunteer. In a nutshell, a volunteer is someone who is willing to give their time or their talent for the benefit of others, with no thought of personal gain or pay-back. There are others not in a position to do either of these and so dig into their ‘treasure’ to be a vital part in the relieving of the suffering of others.
The spirit of volunteering has been on jaw-dropping display over the past few months as literally thousands have flocked to lend a proverbial hand to lighten the plight of those whose lives were devastatingly interrupted by April’s flooding.
One of the many established disaster relief collaborations, the KZN Response Unit, (a partnership of NPOs: The Domino Foundation, Zoe Life, City Hope Disaster, The South African Red Cross and The KZN Christian Council) once again rallied to alleviate the dire consequences of the calamity. The partnership operated like a well-oiled machine, having together adapted and navigated the Covid-19 pandemic, the destruction caused by the July 2021 KZN civil unrest, as well as many other disasters – shack fires, xenophobic unrest, tornados and other natural and man-made crises. Its impact on all of these has been significant. However, it was the willingness of volunteers to roll up their which ensured that much of the help and relief aid was able to reach those most desperately needing it.
The statistics of what was donated, packed and distributed in the weeks after the deluge tore through communities, were staggering. Esther Madikane, The Domino Foundation’s Volunteer Manager, listed 6,135 food and hygiene parcels, 184 tonnes of food aid, 40,385 litres of drinking water, 212 bags of clothing, a tower of 2,633 blankets and an even bigger mountain of 2,326 mattresses. “But,” she adamantly said, “we would never have coped with moving it all out of the various national superlinks and partnering vehicles, with manoeuvring forklifts to shift laden pallets, packing dried foodstuffs into relief hampers, without the small armies of volunteers who appeared every day to serve at the Domino offices in Durban North and Amazimtoti.”
Esther shared countless stories of homegroups from churches who came in to serve, corporate businesses rallying together as community outreach activations, staff who took leave to lend a hand, many young and energetic school learners who took the opportunity to put tangible meaning to their community service hours, and the elderly folk who abandoned their morning tea times for the hive of humanity working to bring aid to those in need. “We were seeing between 12 and 30 volunteers every day receiving donations and sending them out within the day.”
It is really a double win when a volunteer responds to the call to serve in an emergency, and then signs up to be committed for the long haul. All of the partnering NPOs in the KZN Response Unit have opportunities for volunteers to get involved in their ongoing community work. Built on what we read in Matthew’s gospel that we will always have the poor, needy and destitute with us, Domino’s programmes provide many opportunities for people wanting to give of their valuable time. The Babies’ Home welcomes volunteers who like to get down to the little people’s levels to play, sing and read stories – all vital input into the formative first 1,000 days of a vulnerable child’s life, many of whom have been abandoned and who crave gentle loving one-on-one attention. The Nutrition Programme, in its regular routine, hosts shifts of sandwich-makers to ply their peanut butter knives to assemble the thousands of high-protein ‘sarmies’ which go out of a daily basis to partnering primary schools, ECD centres and other learning establishments. With many young Ethekwini citizens, whose homes and schools were damaged or destroyed by the raging waters, and now sheltering in community halls, small tummies are still hungry and need to be fed. Whether it’s a time of predictable routine or a contingency like the present one, Cathy Whittle and Cheryl Dann, who head up the Durban North and South Nutrition teams respectively, are always keen to have would-be makers-of-sandwiches contact them.
Domino’s Marketing Storyteller, Karen Brokensha, spoke about how the #everyONEaddONE campaign rolled out earlier this year has had an unexpected and extraordinary boost from the post-floods call to action: “We have been asking all existing Domino’s friends and supporters to refer just one friend, family member, colleague, church, business or local/international funder to the Foundation so that we could double our impact this year. What has happened in the space of two months is that we have had a number of new volunteers, people who have never been involved with Domino or been on our property before, or weren’t previously active in making a difference in the lives of the people we are working with. We welcome them as they stay on as Domino ambassadors as volunteers in one of our programmes.”
Karen went on to describe how people with specialised skills have also been offering their talents as well as their time: “We had a medical student who took time out from her studies in Tshwane to travel down to Durban, and an optometrist who offered her services. A group of avid artists in Cape Town are putting their creations up for auction to raise money for us to help beneficiaries, and a Health Science and Social Services graduate specialising in community and health psychology has come forward to be a part of the Foundation’s work with survivors of human-trafficking.”
What about people using their treasure as part of volunteering ? Crowded schedules, and to a degree, for many local and regular volunteers, physical city logistics and water-damaged roads made it impossible for many to be hands-on volunteers. Instead, they dug deep into their pockets or reached out to their extensive networks to link in so that community needs could be met. Again, generosity of hearts was the key. A Johannesburg coffee outlet sent out the appeal to its faithful tribe of caffeine addicts who donated 8 tonnes of relief aid which was sent to KZN…and they were only one group out of many that reached out and sharied their storehouses to be part of the band of helping hands.
All too often, self-interest often takes precedence over all other considerations. However, there are over one billion people who volunteer in one way or another across the globe. These volunteers (in whatever way they may be giving of themselves) are showing compassion and demonstrating humanity at its best. They are also finding that, in giving, they are receiving: their volunteering connects them to others, making them diverse new friends and sharpening their social conscience skills. Another added benefit of volunteering is that the mind and body are positively impacted: stress, anger, anxiety and depression are reduced, and research, which has measured hormones and brain activity, has shown that going beyond oneself to help others gives a deep sense of satisfaction.
Esther gave a call to would-be volunteers when she said: “Every NPO in the post flood-relief is grateful for all the individuals who have given in any way over the past weeks.” She encouraged them to consider volunteering on an ongoing basis. She emphasized the fact that, as lives are rebuilt, it is easy to think that all is now well, but great needs remain. She said that each of the partnering NPOs in KZN Response would welcome willing hands looking for ways to carry on reaching out and being agents of change.”
Photos from Left to Right. Top to Bottom.
Mrs South African finalist Nadia Aboud, helping with the babies in the home
After the looting – cleaning up the streets
Meals for those in need – buckets for distribution
#everyONEaddONE – the power of our building a bigger network of helping hands and hearts
School girls making sandwiches for Nutrition Programme