14 July 2015
The KwaZulu-Natal family who opened their farm to 143 displaced foreigners last week has thanked the South Africans who heeded their call for assistance.
“A farmer from Gauteng heard about this and drove all the way down with a bakkie full of potatoes. He didn’t even know our address, he just stopped in Cato Ridge and asked about us. How awesome is that?” said Rae Wartnaby, 47.
“There was another lady who came and spoke to one of the refugees who stands at the gate and she discovered that his passion is playing guitar. She left and came back with a guitar for him.
“People have been really awesome,” said Wartnaby, who together with her husband Andrew, 47, opened their Hope Farm in Killarney Valley to people left destitute by xenophobic attacks.
The couple said they had taken in the displaced foreigners because they had heard the eThekwini Municipality had closed down the last remaining xenophobia camp in Chatsworth.
A place of refuge
Shocked that the families had been arrested for illegally occupying the camp, and children separated from their parents, the Wartnabys offered their home to the refugees. The families, most of whom are from Democratic Republic of Congo and Burundi, said they did not want to live in South Africa anymore because of the xenophobic violence.
On Friday, the family and their guests met lawyers and mediators. “The team have started taking down everybody’s story. So everybody has, or will get, a chance to speak to mediators.”
Wartnaby said the United Nations did not visit her home on Friday, as had been anticipated.
Shelter and medical care
Her husband said he hoped this story showed that South Africans did care.
“People have been coming here to spend time to get to know the foreigners and find out some of the stories. We and our guests are extremely grateful because we couldn’t have done it on our own,” Wartnaby said.
She added that they had received a lot of food donations from various organisations.
“Gift of the Givers have assisted us with disaster relief items. We received a marquee from the Islamic Relief South Africa; they were kind enough to leave it until Tuesday [tomorrow] because we are expecting to have a permanent marquee that will be up for the next few weeks.
“We have another tent that was donated by a really sweet couple. What happened is that Doctors Without Borders came in and there was a couple following them and when they got in they asked us if we would like the tent and we said ‘yes’.
“So they put the tent up and Doctors Without Borders have been able to have a space to work and speak to people privately. It’s amazing.” The outreach organisation had promised to return.
“At the moment if anyone gets ill then we use our own medical GP who has been awesome in seeing people,” she said.
Many ordinary South Africans have also committed to helping the family. Stan Goodenough and his wife Mary from Howick said they had donated a tent they were not using. “We saw the story and we were touched by it,” they said.
Catherine Taylor, who is the director of BackaBuddy, a fundraising organisation based in Cape Town, said she would be looking at ways to help the family. “We assist organisations and people to raise funds through peer-funding. What we are going to do is set up a page online and we are hoping that people will see it and come forward so that we can assist the family at the farm.”
Shahnaaz Paruk from Islamic Relief South Africa said when the organisation heard about the story it had a marquee delivered as a temporary shelter. “There was a request for hygiene packs as well as some groceries. We try to alleviate poverty and assist migrants in whichever way we can.”