More than 800 people living in Overcome Heights in Capricorn Park near Muizenberg were displaced on 25 October when 309 homes were destroyed in one of the major fires that have devastated local communities recently. For the second time in two weeks, the University of Cape Town (UCT) Students' Health and Welfare Centres Organisation (SHAWCO) stepped up to provide assistance to the affected residents.
Selmarie Kenneth, senior administrator in SHAWCO’s Academic Interventions Unit, had just completed a delivery of donations to the survivors of a similar large fire in Khayelitsha when she heard the news of this second fire.
She immediately informed SHAWCO management, who lost no time in gathering further donations for the Overcome Heights families.
The fire could not have come at a worse time for the learners in the area.
“As schools have now started their exams officially, it’s not just the matric learners who are affected. There’s a large group of school children all writing exams at the moment,” said Declan Dyer, vice-president of SHAWCO Education.
The SHAWCO bus, loaded with donated clothing, shoes, stationery, utensils, hygiene products and food, delivered these much-needed items to the Seawinds Multipurpose Centre in Vrygrond on Friday, 9 November.
“These donations have predominantly been given to us by the SHAWCO community, but also the larger UCT community,” Dyer said.
“These donations have predominantly been given to us by the SHAWCO community, but also the larger UCT community.”
Gail Johnstone, assistant to local ward councillor Gerry Gordon, said the donations were extremely welcome, with many people still struggling to find food and shelter following the fire.
Gordon has been coordinating the delivery of goods to community members, said Johnstone. Donations delivered to the Seawinds centre are sorted and then distributed according to need.
The team from Gordon’s office works every weekend to ensure that donations get to those who most need them as quickly as possible.
“This donation from SHAWCO will go to the people by the start of [this] week,” she said.
Donations have also been coming in from other sources, including the Red Cross, South African Social Security Agency (SASSA), Gift of the Givers, supermarkets and the community.
“Everyone is giving,” Johnstone added.
Residents whose homes were destroyed in the blaze received building materials from the Department of Human Settlements on the Saturday after the fire, and immediately started rebuilding.
But it has not been smooth sailing for all. There have been complaints that they have not received enough building materials, which has meant they have had to buy their own.
Some have said that they have lost their original plot of land to others.
As a result, a group chose to rebuild on open land, in contravention of City of Cape Town regulations. These structures were in turn demolished, forcing residents to start over again.
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