While I stood watching the chaos unfolding, my WhatsApp suddenly started to explode, with video after video, showing the carnage unfolding all over Natal. Scores of people running all over, carrying anything they can carry, lawlessly breaking down structures, groceries carts being used to transport stolen goods, even ATM machines getting ripped out of the walls, with burning debris in the streets, and entire shopping malls stripped bare.

Unbelievable scenes, that could only be described as total anarchy…

Messages were shared between people of ever more distressed families, caught in the middle of the chaos unfolding, some trying to connect to their families, and others sharing their content of unfolding events in their immediate location, some fearing for their lives, business owners, helplessly fleeing their premises, to avoid the carnage…

The events unfolding were soon broadcast on the news and reached the world, with family members and people watching in total despair from abroad. The images and videos can only be described as utterly shocking. This is here, our country, being destroyed, right at this moment before our eyes… with no evident notion, or action from authorities to stop the events unfolding…

My brother was the first call I received that dreadful morning, with the accompanying video of the first chaos ensuing at his workplace. It tears right through your soul to hear the anxiety from his wife, alone with three daughters at home, not at all sure what will happen next, how far will this madness reach, how will it end?? For the families caught in that situation, its reality, its real time, you can hear it, smell it and see it, it’s happening now. No one is safe, nothing can prepare you for the uncertainty, violence and total disregard of the law. With the closing of all routes in and out of the province, it was basically declared a “war zone”. The totality of these immediate events must be factored by us, to even slightly be able to understand the situation: if you didn’t buy bread and milk last night, or “I’ll get the formula milk tomorrow; It was a hectic day; I’ll buy groceries tomorrow; the bag of dog food, forgotten last night; I’ll get my blood pressure pills tomorrow” – and then to be awoken by  “there’s nothing available anywhere today…”

More videos were sent of people actually being shot at, while trying to drive to a location. Will you risk being shot at, to get food, medicine or dog food?

I received a call from parents attending a family funeral in Natal, being unable to return home due to the lockdown on all national roads, in and out of Natal, with their children still in Bloemfontein. This call, while absolutely wrenching, struck me with the thought of all the elderly people, the physically challenged people, the vulnerable, who have the same, and in most cases – as we know – dire need for basic food and medicines, with their meagre income, who now definitely have no way to obtain these basic goods for their daily survival.

Every South African had the thought in mind: when will the chaos spill over to our town, how will this end, will we get through this…?

Total anarchy, set in motion by events unfolding In Natal. It even spilled over to Johannesburg, and that only fueled the argument further.

The most amazing experience happened, only but a day, after all madness broke out in Natal and Gauteng. 

We as true South Africans, not associated with any governing political standing status, or regarding any social standing, started one of the most amazing movements, with people of all standings in South Africa, bonding, forming prayer groups, initiating infrastructure and planning distribution routes, to establish a life line of supplements, to those most in need. People wanted to get involved: groups of two or five people started with an idea, that radically spread to involvement of hundreds of people.

We, as the homeschooling community in South Africa, also got involved, through the use of our comprehensive database of contact networks countrywide. Groups started contacting each other, inquiring on establishing relief supply chains, warehousing of goods, donations and available transport options. People within the groups volunteered their private residences as hubs for stock, donation accounts were established to purchase relief goods, and owners made their trucks, bakkies, cars and even airplanes available for transport. Farmers in rural parts of Natal made their landing strips available for air delivery of needed relief goods, with vehicles made available to deliver the goods were needed. If you where on these homeschool groups, you will know the extent of these networks, and the amazing influx of help and expertise received.

I was personally involved with three of these groups, and witnessed messages and videos being sent at 2 AM, of goods gathered and ready for delivery. If any of you might have switched off your phone, you’ll remember the 100’s of messages received. In a matter of hours, tons of goods were available from all over the country. A “crisis” call group was founded, where really desperate families could register to receive immediate medical aid and/or food.

I received amazing photos of boxes of cereal, canned goods, smash, maize flour, powdered milk, all carefully packed, to ensure safe weight distribution on airfreight.

One of our homeschool moms in Natal, who said that the overwhelming response they received, was “something she never expected in her wildest dreams!”

I cannot single out any individual group or person specifically, I want to thank all the dedicated “behind the scene individuals” working through the night, receiving goods, packing parcels in boxes, transporting the goods from stores to the Hubs, and delivering the ready-to-ship goods to the airfields, the person(s) making the coffee, the family who opened their homes as hubs, the families who financially donated, to the company who dedicated R500 000.00 for fuel, the private airplane owners who flew their personal aircraft, with no compensation, stacked with supplies, to dedicated airstrips all over Natal. There was even a lady who donated knitted gloves for the people working in the cold. Every person involved matters, no matter how small they might seem, and even families in as far as Australia had dedicated their time in this humanitarian endeavor. With so many individual people involved, sacrificing and dedicating their personal time for a “bigger than us” cause, should be humbling and empowering to us all.

To everyone in the homeschool community who applied themselves, with the planning, execution and delivery of the beautiful humanitarian operations seen in Natal, there’s a definite resolution that there’s no obstacle that cannot be breached by our perseverance as a united homeschool group!!

Thank you Homeschoolers, for your compassion and unity.

I witnessed the incredible messages and videos sent, of people united in a cause, packing goods, delivering parcels, loading trucks and airplanes during the cold of night, all with warm smiles and warm enthusiasm and compassion.

I must honestly say, in my eight years being involved within our own ever growing homeschool group, and all the associated networks of country wide homeschool groups, we as an organisation – together – have shown our powerful ability to establish ourselves as a united force in unity.

As I started to receive the first videos of goods reaching their destinations in Natal my heart melted, when I saw the absolute gratitude on every recipient’s face, from the teary-eyed moms and smiling faces of the children, to the elderly in care homes watching in awe and confused on receiving vital needed medical supplies and food. Videos was shared of desperate families in rural Natal receiving much needed supplies. I’m sure you could even see the relief on some of the animals’ faces as well!

Even to this day, there’s still donations being received and dispatched, with more people getting involved in the recovery process in Natal. Homeschool families in Richards Bay, even though themselves in the middle of the chaos, offered their assistance in these efforts. Homeschool groups in Empangeni, Port Edward, Bloemfontein and even Namibia, also assisted with donations. Places like Hammersdal, Virginia, Balito, Jozine, Mbazwana, Kosi Bay  – and numerous others – received these most valuable relief parcels.

South Africa – and especially Natal – are ever grateful for all the extensive efforts by the country wide homeschool communities participating in this wonderful endeavor!

On behalf of myself and the editorial team at SAHB, we thank everyone involved in this wonderful cause. We salute you!

Written by Gerda Welman