Gift of the Givers: 25 years of philanthropy: Emily Thomas

In a series of five articles, we share stories from Gift of the Givers volunteers in their own words as the organisation marks its 25th year of serving humanity. Emily Thomas, who works in logistics, tells us about what she does.

Bringing water to the thirsty, Emily Thomas helping with drought relief programme in the Free State. (Image: Gift of the Givers)

Sulaiman Philip

Emily Thomas: Logistics

I had just returned from leave in January 2016 when I was asked to go to Bloemfontein to help with our drought relief programme, where we distributed thousands of litres of water to communities around the Free State. It was really so sad to see people queue from five in the morning hoping that a water truck would come pass. Elderly people had to pay someone to fetch them buckets of water; children in creche were forced to carry two litres of water for the day.

Listening to farmers when we brought them animal feed moved me. They would speak of how they ploughed and planted in hope and how they lost it all as the drought went on. I could feel and see the heartache and pain this drought visited on them.

Listening to farmers talking about having to kill their animals brought home the despair people live with. (Image: Gift of the Givers)

The animals were thin, sickly and dying. To remove yourself is a coping mechanism and I kept thinking about how this would affect the price of meat. Then you listen to the farmers tell you how hard it was to shoot their animals because they could not stand to see their suffering, and you realise the despair and hopelessness they live with. This donation of animal feed brought them new hope. The drought was an act of God, but through us He brought hope.

I am a Gift of the Givers employee and I’m on call 24/7, but I see this as a calling, not a job. I have been doing this for so long – for nine years – and I have learnt that every distribution or disaster comes with its own unique challenges. It’s my responsibilty to make sure that logistics are in place and to be aware of the things that could possibley go wrong.

On my first mission I thought of none of that; I was thinking only that our donations were going to make people’s hearts happy. Then the reality of the amount of work and planning that goes into every distribution or mission dawns on you. I work with an incredibly experienced team that helps to ensure that everything runs smoothly and without any security hazards.

When people ask I always tell them my journey with Gift of the Givers started as an intervention by God. When I think of who we are and what it is we do I am filled with pride. We are an organisation that brings hope and restores dignity to people’s lives. I lost my job in June 2008. I remember I was standing outside when two gentlemen stopped to talk to me. We prayed together and one of them said: “In a month from now God will give you a job.”

Exactly a month later I was planning to spend the day in bed because I was so depressed about still being unemployed when I got a call from my priest, Reverend Eve. Some flats close our church in Mayfair had burnt down and she wanted me to help with the residents. I could not tell her I was still in bed feeling sorry for myself, instead I jumped up and got ready.

The Gift of the Givers were there as well and we all worked to determine what the residents immediate needs were. I accompanied Uncle (Badr) Allaudin to the warehouse to get some food and basic hygiene products. When he heard I was unemployed he asked me to accompany him to Orlando in Soweto to distribute food and blankets.

In Orlando he asked me to say a few words and, not knowing anything about the organisation, I shyly and nervously read the Gift of the Givers brochure and ended with a prayer. Driving back Uncle Allaudin simply said: “I don’t think Im going to let you go, I want you to join the foundation.”

Read the next profile on Ahmed Bham who heads the search and rescue department of Gift of the Givers.
Our first profile was on medical co-ordinator, Dr YM Essack. Click here to read more.
To find out how beekeeper, Owen Williams, has contributed to the organisation, click here.
Orthopaedic surgeon, Dr Livan Meneses-Turino, shares his experience in Nepal, Haiti, and Palestine.

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