Please help us Gift of the Givers, plus 5 highlights from ‘Vrye Weekblad’

Here’s what’s hot in the latest edition of the Afrikaans digital weekly

20 May 2022 - 06:20
Imtiaz Sooliman of Gift of the Givers speaks about training people in disaster management from a distance. File photo.
Image: Fredlin Adriaan Imtiaz Sooliman of Gift of the Givers speaks about training people in disaster management from a distance. File photo.

It started with a call from the Ukrainian SA association three days after the Russian invasion, says Gift of the Givers’ Imtiaz Sooliman.

“Please help us,” they asked.

“Everyone told us you will know what to do”.

The aid effort started small and built momentum as Sooliman assembled networks and connected people, and got money to turn plans into action. 

A few days later a doctor from George in the Western Cape called Sooliman, saying his colleagues in Ukraine needed advice on how to work in a war situation. The next day Sooliman was on Zoom with a network of doctors from the US, Canada, the UK, Germany, France, Slovenia, Hungary, Romania — and Ukraine. One of the most important lessons in these circumstances, he explained to them, is how to maintain emotional distance. 

In yet another call a South African married to a Ukrainian woman, Natalia, asked Sooliman to help her to help her people. She was in Western Ukraine. 

He paid money into Natalia’s bank account and told her “to just get going”. She put together a team of volunteers who bought food, baby food, nappies and sanitary pads, warm clothes and medicine and distributed it to the refugees. They became more organised and started buying in bulk.

“It’s an interesting experience to train people with no experience of disaster management from a distance,” said Sooliman.

“It is astonishing how they applied it in practice.” 

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Smart Angels, a European aid organisation, contacted Sooliman. They had 70 trucks with aid, but no money for fuel. He organised 30,000 litres of fuel to get the trucks on the road and arranged to continue every week. 

“This didn’t solve the biggest problem because they still couldn’t get to the hot spots,” said Sooliman. 

With the help of friends and acquaintances, Natalia recruited volunteers in places such as Kharkiv, Lviv and Kherson. Sooliman told her to get them to replicate her team’s actions.

With Sooliman’s help and advice, Natalia launched an operation to help the elderly, going door to door to deliver food and medicine. 

“Ask them what they need, we’ll pay for it,” he told her. 

In Bucha one of the most emotional requests was for help with funerals.

“When they discovered the mass graves, there was a need to bury people properly. We paid for that. To bury people with dignity.”

Read the full article and more in this week’s edition of Vrye Weekblad.

Must-read articles in this week’s Vrye Weekblad

>> Browse the full May 20 edition

SIES! THAT’S NOT VERY FESTIVE | Piet Croucamp received an explosive “p” at the Oesfees, but while at Nampo he also saw how adaptable SA’s agricultural sector is to changing circumstances.

STOP PLAYING, CYRIL! | Nathi Mthethwa’s monumental flag will never be raised, but the debacle is a metaphor for the breathtaking insensitivity and incompetence of the ANC. What is President Cyril Ramaphosa doing while Rome is burning?

THE WEEK IN POLITICS | Max du Preez asks whether punitive or reconciliatory justice is the answer for Stellenbosch University’s urination incident, and reckons CNN is no longer a reliable source.

ENOUGH ALREADY | Albertus van Wyk is tired of all the outrage, but had to express his feelings around the Stellenbosch University saga. 

FOR PEOPLE WHO READ | This week we read JG Jesman, Harlan Coben and Richard Powers, as well as Elif Shafak’s The Island of Missing Trees.