Idai Relief Effort
Around two months ago we started to work on our campaign to raise $11,000 USD to assist the victims of Cyclone Idai in Mozambique.
Our team member Rehgert van Zyl (founder/director of Aleph Surf) went up to Mozambique for 10 days to help assist and train the victims in the rural areas.
Below is a report from Rehgert to fill you in on what he experienced and what has been achieved through your support, prayer and donations.
Each day we hear news of disasters and the heart wrenching stories that accompany them. We often brush over them, but at times, it grabs a hold of us and moves us to action. Why? It boils down to how we relate and empathize with it on a personal level.
Cyclone Idai that struck Mozambique in March 2019 was this for us. We have developed close relationships with people in Mozambique over the years. We have experienced such warmth and hospitality from friends and strangers and we have received such wonderful experiences from this nation. We are neighbors and friends.
Our friends got hurt on March 14, 2019.
When Cyclone Idai hit Beira and Central Mozambique with unprecedented rain and winds, no one fully comprehended the destruction that would follow. Mozambique is already one of the poorest countries in the world and its citizens and government were not prepared for the loss of life, food, crops, housing and infrastructure that followed the wake of the cyclone. We kept receiving updates on how bad the situation was on the ground.
There is a verse that keeps playing over in my mind during times like this:
“And let our people also learn to maintain good works, to meet urgent needs, that they may not be unfruitful.” This is from Titus 3:14
In one of my translations it reads: perform good works on occasions of emergency.
Cyclone Idai was certainly an emergency and we needed to mobilize. I wrote our friends at Waves for Water and asked if Cyclone Idai was on their radar. I shared about the extent of the disaster and they let me know they will see what they can do. In the mean time I was in regular contact with our friends Luke and Kristin who are part of Cross Connection Outreach. They shared on the importance of emergency food and supplies following the cyclone. Food shortage is a real threat. Communities were cut off from roads and supply runs. It was up to individuals to help make things happen. Our wish was to assist them in their task of getting food and supplies to victims. Together with Groundswell Aid we hatched a plan on raising funds for food, supplies and clean water.
We made an appeal video, Groundswell Aid setup the fundraising platform and we all rallied our social media platforms to raise $11,000 USD.
Within a few days of launching this campaign, Waves for Water contacted me and said that they raised enough funding for water filters. So awesome! Jordan, Patrick and Chris would join me in Beira for Clean Water activation training and distribution in and around Beira. We made use of our good friends Young Life Africa as a channel to work with locals in Beira and administer what we have to where it is most needed. What we appreciate about Waves for Water is the concept of ‘train the trainer’ where they empower and equip locals with the knowledge and expertise to meet local needs. Locals reaching locals, in a local context. This is in line of what our aims are for long term development as Aleph Surf Int.
I left for Mozambique on 22 April from Port Elizabeth airport. The reason for landing in Vilankulos was to pick up our vehicle as well as the buckets and supplies for our outreach in Beira. I drove 11 hours from Vilankulos into Beira. On the way I could see the destruction of the flood waters as parts of the roads were washed away, many houses were still under water and thousands of people were living in make shift tent towns. It was dusk and darkness crept in over the landscape, most of the electricity still cut off from towns and villages. I got into Beira later that evening after picking up Patrick and Chris from the airport. Jordan would fly in the following day from LA.
Now, I could go into great detail of what we did, where we went and all the stories along the way. But I thought it would be best to share three stories.
Meeting Eugenio and Viktor
These two men form the cornerstone and leadership of Young Life in Beira and Mozambique. Both Mozambican nationals, they are passionate about their faith, their community and the youth. Eugenio met us in the chaos of Beira traffic and helped show us the way where we needed to go. This was such a picture that summarized our time together during this outreach. We trained Eugenio and Viktor as the facilitators and presenters of the community outreaches. They spoke the language, they knew the people, points of interests and community centers that needed these life giving tools. Whenever we would visit the community, students and high school pupils would come up and greet Eugenio and Viktor. It was inspiring to see this generation of leaders in Africa taking hold of their reality and being part of the ones who help bring change. We worked together, ate together, prayed together – and in the midst of the chaos of the cyclone it was beautiful to meet them and share in life for this period of time.
‘Insituto de Deficientes Visuais da Beira’ / The institute for the visually impaired in Beira
Eugenio arranged for us to visit the only school for blind and visually impaired in Mozambique. It’s a place for people who are overlooked and pushed to the periphery in society. I was not fully prepared for what awaited us here. As we parked our car in the yard, 3 boys followed the sound of our Toyota and came up to feel this new object that entered their space. We met with the principal who shared with us what they all experienced during the cyclone. Everyone was terrified. The school’s Cisterns and water supplies were damaged. Many of the teachers lost property of their own. But the kids needed to continue coming to this place of safety and security for them. Eugenio led the training session. Faculty members, who are with and without sight, listened in and were involved with the process. It was incredible to see blind people figure out how to assemble the filters and put together their own system. They were so much more in tune and intentional with getting it than even those with sight!
What made the biggest impact is the way this water filter activation point was approached. We see people as equals, not as ‘disabled or impaired’, but allowed them to help find their own solutions. We just presented the opportunity. After we were done we stayed longer to watch the kids make music, sing songs, we had conversations, we asked each other about our families and lives back home. My favorite was letting the kids touch my hair. They were legit freaked out and called all their friends to come feel as well.
This place is a sanctuary for those who are visually impaired. Out in the streets they are seen as freaks, beggars and beggars. Inside these walls they are family. We felt honored to be let in for a moment in time.
Cross Connection Outreach and all the other ‘good Samaritans’
The main drive for why we went to be involved with Cyclone Idai relief was to assist our friends at Cross Connection Outreach. They are a Mozambican organization and ministry that translates bibles into native Mozambican languages, digs wells and trains up local leaders and pastors. Cyclone Relief is not their forte. Nonetheless, they could not stand by and let Beira communities suffer unassisted. I joined the founders for 3 days in remote villages stretching from the borders of Zimbabwe to Buzi River Villages. CCO has been able to distribute TONS of food and supplies to areas where no big aid organizations have been able to assist. Some of the people we met who came to the food distribution points received their first aid since the cyclone happened. That is a month later! Getting to these villages is a mission. You often have to cross great distances in a 4x4 or truck and hope that you don’t get stuck in mud or debris along the way. During my time, we stayed in a makeshift tented camp within the surrounds of the village where food is distributed from on a daily basis to various communities. It is done in a way that is dignified and respectful to those who have lost everything. Recipients are welcomed, they are greeted by name and two at a time come to collect their weekly portion. Mozambicans help hand out the aid. It is a noble and inclusive process.
What stood out the most is that the people organizing and distributing this aid does not work for huge well known Aid Organizations. They do not have experience in disaster response. They don’t get paid for this work. These are pastors, teachers, missionaries and layman who came put their life and duties on hold to come and help others from starving. They are sleeping in tents, using bush toilets and eating meager meals so they can be available to those who are in deep need. We commend them for their heart and service.
What we achieved
Through Groundswell Aid we raised $11,000 that will go to assisting victims of Cyclone Idai. We distributed 450 water filters together with Waves for Water and cultivated valuable new friendships with Young Life in Beira. We could not have done it without the financial support of each of you who gave.
The reality of a famine is not out of the question. People lost all of their crops and harvest as well as stored supplies. The dry season is upon them which means rainfall will only arrive around November again. They can't plant new crops without water. People still need help. We urge those who feel connection with this nation to continue to help - however small the amount may be – it can make a difference.—
Rehgert van Zyl