The cause of the fire is still unknown and investigations are currently underway. The children were moved to a safe place for the duration of the night, but they had lost everything in the fire. Durban-based charity organisation eThekwini Outreach, a subsidiary of eThekwini Secure, sent around a plea via a WhatsApp broadcast for citizens to donate blankets and mattresses to keep the children comfortable for the night. The citizens of Durban circulated the message and answered that desperate call for help, and within hours of the plea, several blankets and mattresses were sent to the drop off points.
Since then, Outreach has been working tirelessly alongside other organisations to ensure that the babies and toddlers of Edith Benson are well taken care of. Charity organisation Gift of the Givers has already set aside R250 000 to be used for whatever the babies and toddlers require. The Edith Benson home is home to several abused, orphaned and neglected young children, and the homee burning down basically means that these children, some of whom are suffering from HIV and TB, are now homeless. The home itself was completely engulfed in flames, leaving nothing salvageable – it seems unlikely that the home can be rebuilt any time soon. The children have been separated into four different facilities in Durban, and they desperately need supplies. eThekwini Outreach launched a program in which they designated drop-off zones that made it easier for people to donate items to the children, and since Tuesday night, they have collected a large number of items, such as nappies, blankets, baby formula and clothing. On Wednesday night, volunteers worked late to sort through, pack and send these items off to the waiting children. The parking garage used as the drop off zone was a bustle of activity, with most of the space taken up by piles and piles of donated items, with volunteers at the drop-off zone packing the items in the stifling heat, barely pausing for a food and drink break. Outreach members, with their orange apparel, worked alongside the volunteers and coordinated the transportation of these donated items. It’s incredibly heart warming when an entire community comes together in aid of helpless children.
Despite being a fairly new organisation, Outreach has done wonders for the local community. Just last year, when Durban was plagued with terrifying floods, Outreach assisted in removing debris from the roads and helping people escape the flood. I spoke with the deputy chairperson of Outreach, Naazneen Khan, in an effort to learn more about the organisation and what it does.
According to Khan, eThekwini Outreach is branch of the security-centred eThekwini Secure. Outreach works on rectifying societal issues such as poverty, and they lend a hand during disasters. The Edith Benson project is just one of the many projects that they have undertaken in the past.
Speaking about the Edith Benson project, Khan stated that the community’s efforts achieved the desired result – they collected enough items to tide the children over for a long while. In fact, according to Khan, there were so many donations pouring in that Outreach had to halt donations for a time in order to work on packing the items already received. When I got there, half of the donations had already been sent through to the facilities housing the children, and the parking garage was still packed! The generosity demonstrated by the community in the face of this disaster has been overwhelming, and Khan expects the project to carry on until the children have been permanently placed in a home.
eThekwini Outreach is always on the lookout for volunteers. Currently, they require volunteers on the 22nd of February to culminate the packing of donated items.
If you want to volunteer or donate items, you can contact eThekwini Outreach on 072 291 1911, or you can email them at [email protected] for more information. Find them on Instagram and Facebook.
Items that were required are as follows: InferCare Formula(Ages 1, 2 & 3), nappies, blankets, baby and toddler clothing, sterilizers, milk bottles, cereal, baby food, wet wipes, bowls and spoons, creams, sponges, blankets, pillows and bedding.