Floodwaters damaged numerous roads and homes
In early August, torrential rains hit Sierra Leone, a country on the southwest coast of West Africa, leaving roads blocked, and homes and businesses flooded. Thousands of residents were affected by the disaster, which had killed several people. Many parts of Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone, were inundated, and residents could be seen wading through the flood waters with despair on their faces. Numerous vehicles were damaged by the flood, and people were trapped in them, too frightened to leave their vehicles as they saw the torrents gushing by. Mud flowed down the slopes, endangering the houses sitting on them.
The weather bureau of Sierra Leone forecasted more heavy rains in the next two months. To prevent the devastating flood disaster in 2017, which killed nearly 500 people, the authorities have evacuated the affected residents to shelters.
The Office of National Security of Sierra Leone has convened emergency meetings with its collaborative partners in Freetown to discuss how to conduct disaster assessments. In-depth assessments will be conducted in the areas of communications, education, food security, nutrition, shelter, water resources, health and sanitation.
NGOs and the authorities plan for aid distributions
When the flood disaster struck, Father Peter from Caritas Freetown, who was in the United States at the time, contacted Tzu Chi volunteer Ci Hui and her team to discuss how to go about carrying out emergency relief operations. The Catholic Relief Services also collaborates with Caritas to provide US$15,000 to purchase relief supplies for the disaster victims and plans to work together with the local mayor’s office to conduct aid distributions.
Tzu Chi volunteers in Sierra Leone will be collaborating with the Healey Foundation, Caritas Freetown, Catholic Relief Services, Freetown’s mayor’s office, and the Office of National Security to distribute emergency aid supplies to over 1,200 people staying in six shelters.
Preparing a shipment of clothing for flood victims
The Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation in Taiwan kick-started a clothing drive to collect second-hand clothes to be sent to the flood survivors in Sierra Leone. The effort has collected over 90,000 pieces of clothing, which will be sorted and packed by Tzu Chi volunteers in the Taoyuan Jing Si Hall from 18th to 25th August.
Due to the huge amount of clothing to be packed, Tzu Chi hopes to engage the help of more volunteers and specially opens an evening packing session, where working adults can come and help out after office hours.
On 18th August, the first day of the 8-day activity, some 230 volunteers gathered at the Jing Si Hall to contribute their efforts to give of their love to the African flood victims. After the 188 boxes of donated clothing were unloaded from a truck, many pairs of hands started to get busy.
The venue is separated into six sections: kids’ bottoms, kids’ tops, men’s tops, ladies’ tops, ladies’ long bottoms and ladies’ short bottoms. There were ironing boards and sewing machines at one corner where clothes were ironed and mended. Volunteers were also stationed at a table to help with changing faulty zips, elastic bands and buttons.
A group of volunteers sorted out the clothes accordingly before checking them piece by piece, to see if they were dirty, needed ironing, or had any defects. Those that had minor defects were mended on the spot. Then, the clothes were classified into various sizes before being packed into boxes.
Sincere and loving efforts from volunteers in Taiwan
Among a group of young volunteers helping out at the ladies’ section, there was a petite young woman who was wearing hearing aids. Despite being hearing impaired, she worked very earnestly, with the hope of helping the flood victims in Africa.
At the packing section, another volunteer Xu Su Zhen could be seen bending low as she helped to seal the boxes of clothing, before weighing them. Xu had always hoped to participate in a Tzu Chi international relief mission, but her wish had not been fulfilled over the last two years. However, she was happy to have the opportunity to help pack relief materials to be sent to disaster survivors overseas.
“We would need to fly for several hours to reach the destination before we could start the relief work. But, just by coming here to help out today, we can still participate in overseas relief work. I think, perhaps, this is an opportunity given to me by Dharma Master Cheng Yen! ” shared Xu.
The 90,000 pieces of clothes are donated by factories as well as second-hand clothes collected by Tzu Chi recycling stations over time. They will be packed into two 40ft containers and sent to Sierra Leone on 26th August. The shipment will carry the love and blessings from the people of Taiwan to those affected by the devastating flood in Sierra Leone.