Westlake United Church Trust has been working around the clock at one of the largest informal shelters for displaced foreigners at Chrysalis Academy (a large reformatory for at-risk youth) in Tokai forest, Cape Town. It is an idyllic setting on the slopes of Table Mountain where even baboons roam around and visit us daily!
The 310 foreigners, consisting of Somalis, Congolese, Zimbabweans, Burundis, Rwandans, Malawians and Mozambiquans from all over Cape Town, are staying in dormitories in a two-storey grey-concrete building with outside hallways facing a courtyard, each room jammed with 14 single beds set so close that the metal frames touch each other. There are nearly enough mattresses for everyone, though some sleep on the wooden floors. The foreigners have separated themselves into rooms by nationality. There is clothing everywhere, groups of women wash the clothes in plastic basins and lay the clothes on bushes or on the ground to dry in the sun. Every day at 4pm, the residents form a line and are given five minutes to choose their new clothes donated by various churches and individuals. Volunteers are given duties, namely sorting clothes, working in the kitchen preparing meals, or playing with the children in the room allocated as a ‘school room’. A volunteer doctor comes in everyday and tends to the sick people; a nurse monitors blood pressures and makes sure people get medication (some fled their homes without their medications).
A pregnant Somalian woman has been taken to hospital and we have just heard that she has given birth to a baby girl. A Congolese man has lost his wife and child – he is distraught. He doesn’t know where they are, and they have only been in South Africa for one month, so they don’t know anyone. He is so worried; he doesn’t know what has happened to them. All the Somalians have had their shops looted and have lost everything. They don’t know what to do, they don’t want to go back to Somalia, and they don’t want to stay here. In fact, most of the refugees don’t know what to do, they feel they can’t go back to their countries which are at war or are politically unstable and they are frightened to go back to their communities, where they say they have been threatened and will be killed. In fact some of them can’t go back to their homes because they have been burnt and everything has been destroyed. They don’t feel safe.
The situation is serious. We are facing a crisis here. The volunteers are individuals who just want to help, as well as from churches and NGO’s. They are trying to handle the crisis as best they can while we wait for the Government to give us some direction as to what is going to happen to these people. The volunteers are doing an amazing job. But we need help, particularly money to pay for ongoing costs of running the centre.
Please pray for us and for these people who have been displaced, and for peace in our beautiful country, which has been torn apart by these horrific acts of xenophobic violence.
STOP PRESS! Our Congolese man has found his wife and child! His story was in the Cape Times and someone read it and tracked her down – in Pietermaritzburg! Somehow she found herself on her way by train to a family she knew there. He is now walking around with a huge smile on his face – says he is very happy! We are all so thrilled. We thank God for answering our prayers.
If you would like to make even the smallest donation please use the details below:
Name – Westlake United Church Trust
Bank – First National Bank
Branch Code – 200409 (Blue Route, Tokai)
Bank account No – 62019764184
Reference – CAPETOWN REFUGEES