Floods 2022 – How can I help?

Yet again, Durban is central to a South African crisis. The NPOs are busy-ing around trying to meet the needs of the community, the general public that is fortunate not to have felt the brunt want to help, companies are asked (yet again) to dig even deeper into their pockets to aid, and the municipality does its best to assist, but what is really needed?

It is a question that has been going around my head for a while.  Growing up in a family that moved a lot, I know what it is to be in a house, but not be able to find or use what you want at that moment. This is on another scale – the house is either under a thick layer of mud or is gone. On the other side, we have whole areas with no electricity and water (ironic when too much water is the cause of all the problems)due to infrastructure failure.

We busy ourselves placing plasters over gaping wounds of people’s lives by handing them a food parcel or blanket and second-hand clothes, but that is not the solution here. For example, we get them food (and that’s another whole story on its own – with so much infrastructure damage how does one know which roads to safely use to get to the location and if those roads will even hold the gifts of mercy? How are they to cook it, while they are in the community hall or as they slosh through the mud up to their knees in their houses? The answer is to support the soup kitchens for the moment as they can get the food to those who need it in the community halls full of displaced families, instead of the people who are generally first in the queue whenever disaster strikes – even Jesus commented that the poor will always be with us. The next question is, how do we get these people back to their homes? It is going to require an incredible feat of rubble removal, structural engineering, and building. Not the type of thing NPOs supply and for many of those affected, there is no insurance to pick up the tab, and even for those who have insurance, it’s going to be a long time until that comes through.

A water supply dam burst in eThekwini, a number of the major pipes, pumps and substations are no longer, that’s not talking about bridges and roads that need to be restored. These are no quick fixes. These are millions, if not billions of Rands that urgently need to be found for eThekwini to continue to be a place where people inhabit.

So yes, for the week ahead we will busy ourselves sending food and water, but we cannot do that for months. And yet again another group of people who do not have the street smarts available to them, get thrust upon the streets and are labelled homeless. It begins again with calls to the newspapers and police about the increase of vagrants in our Durban streets. COVID lockdown saw the first wave of people losing their livelihoods, the second was the riots last year, this is now the third. For some it’s going to be, “strike three, you’re out!”.  How do we prevent this? How do we reach out and care for those who need it and are not just taking advantage of the situation?

For businesses, ensure your employees are taken care of.

For individuals, take care of your staff and your family. 

And NPOs, ensure your current beneficiaries are taken care of first. 

The saying of doing for one which you wish you could do for many stands in good stead at this time.  Pick one, one family, who you have a relationship with and ensure they are seen to.  A roof over their heads, access to water and food, and that they are investing in solutions to their problems.  It’s not our responsibility to sort out homes for those who have lost them, but it is our privilege to aid those in need.

Durban, and the rest of South Africa and the world, thank you for your generous outpouring of food and “plasters” for the next season while we help those in need find solutions to their housing issues.

Challenge 10.2 – Homework Club

Reflections on our visit to Amaoti 3 Secondary School on the 13th March 2021 as part of our We are Durban’s Action for Good campaign.

Today I participated in extra lessons for matrics (grade 12) in Amaoti.  Firstly, I was blown away that on a Saturday, of their own free will, they chose to come to school for extra lessons.  I compare it to kids at wealthier schools and unless they are super driven or forced, you would not catch them at school on a Saturday for three hours of extra Math or English lessons!

The magic “they” say comparison is the killer of joy, and I must admit I lost a bit of my joy when I was struck by the differences and the biggest difference was the levels of hope in the kids.  During a break in the math session I asked a group of them, “What are your plans for the next year?” to which I received blank stares and puzzled looks.  I probed further and got more of the same and this made me heartsore.  If I think of matrics, and even grade 11’s, that I have had the privilege to be in contact with; when you ask them what their plan for after school is, it’s a real conversation starter: gap years, studying, internships, working, whatever.  The excitement grows – it’s the start of their adult life with a bit more freedom and independence and they are excited.  These kids were not.  And I had to ask myself, “why?”.  What are the possible reasons for that response?

My immediate thought is that they do not have dreams.  No vision for their future.  No hope.  I asked why and started to think of multiple options.   They live in constant crisis day-to-day.  Safety is not assured, food is not assured, not even water is assured.  If that is your day-to-day reality, you have to live in the moment, can’t even think of the next week because next week may not come.  Perhaps, over years of this it dulls your ability to dream, to hope and as a result plan for a brighter future.

My next thought was, perhaps its culture?  I am not Zulu like the youth we are speaking to.  I know, when one is pregnant she never tells anyone the due date in case a curse is put on the child.  Potentially they don’t want to speak about their hopes or plans in case someone curses their dreams and they don’t become a reality.  I have subsequently found that this is not applicable but they could have worried about people acting out of spite to destroy their plans.

My third thought was around independence.  For wealthier kids much of the excitement is around gaining a bit of freedom, but these youths arrived to the school on their own with many having lost parents and are the head of their household already.  Many have children of their own.  There will be little to no change for them next year in that regard; if anything they will be expected to contribute more.

It may be a combination of the above.  If these kids represent the majority of South African matrics, how do we change this? How do we bring hope and decrease stress?  How do we transform a generation?  I believe it is totally do-able but we do have to work together though.  Organisations such as Lungisani Indlela, Key of Hope, iThemba Lethu and Bright Stars engage with the youth, mentor, teach and walk alongside them.  They will catch those who are wanting to, are willing to and have a glimmer for more, for a change in their lives.

Volunteer if you would like to be part of the change. Email volunteer@wearedurban.com to get in touch with one of these organisations.

Challenge 10.1 – Feed the Homeless

I left Siphila Ngomusa with mixed emotions.  We had fun, had an impact on hundreds of lives, we witnessed opportunities the people with “no other option” have in Durban.  Yet, so few people joined us to be part of it.

We were able to visit a facility in Durban where a homeless lady can be housed, in her own room, with access to hot and cold showers and flush toilets, free of charge.  A place where she will see a social worker and a plan will be created for her to re-enter society, yet Durban didn’t get to see it!  My second frustration was unfortunately circumstantial as the visit to the one men’s site was cancelled due to unrest.  It was disappointing as it’s inspiring to see theses sites and the lives that have blossomed within them.

There is a myriad of factors that resulted in low sign-ups for people to join. The first being COVID and the fear of coming into contact with people unfamiliar to us. We must assure you every COVID protocol was maintained. We also realise many people find it hard seeing others struggle, especially when the need for food and shelter is overwhelming. The location of heading into a Durban market is also tough for many individuals.  Volunteering is so important right now and necessary. Many studies have proven that volunteering and giving to people in need increases the feeling of happiness in the volunteer or giver.  And our society needs a healthy dose of hope and happiness right now! Another factor that improves the feeling of happiness is showing gratitude.  So, we would like to take the opportunity to thank four groups of people. 

Firstly, the Siphila Ngomusa team who serve daily and tirelessly.  They get up at 2:00am to cook breakfast for the homeless, come back from that round to clean pots and then start cooking an afternoon meal.  They serve about 500 people daily.  We thank you for showing up each and every day and making a difference despite the circumstances.

Secondly, we would like to thank eThekwini Municipality for supplying and running these facilities for the homeless.

Thirdly, we would like to thank the donors who make it possible to supply food to the homeless.  Without your sacrifices, those 500 people would not be fed.

And last, but in many ways most importantly, we thank the volunteers for taking time out of their very busy lives to come be present and serve those in need, we appreciate you!

2021 is our 10th birthday and to mark the occasion, we are challenging Durban to 10 actions for good this year!  Saturday was our first celebration event and what is a celebration without food?  Our food went to those in need.  The next challenge, 10.2, will be in the education sector – we look forward to hosting you at one of our partner organisations on the 13 March 2021.  Make sure you watch out for sign up information, and sign up to join us! Let’s make Durban all it was meant to be, together!

Happy 10th Birthday to us!

Yes, believe it or not, We are Durban is officially 10 this year! Unofficially we are 11, we decided we would count it from the official dates! In 2010 we hired our first employee but 2011 was the year we registered our name, domain and company with CIPC.

It has been a privilege to serve the city of Durban and our 240 different partner organisations. We have tackled massive and small projects, had encouraging, challenging and some downright hard conversations. We have been accepted and loved, and hated and rejected; all this comes with the territory.  We have walked closely with some, and others have just touched base every now and then (depending on their desire or need).  It has been a phenomenal journey and one that is nowhere near reaching its peak. There is still so much to do.

Durban, it has been an honour to be a part of your story. You truly are a caring city, a caring people. Thank you for being the “We” in We are Durban and being part of the hand that reaches out to those who need it. Let us find new ways to engage with the desperation around us and make the next ten years even more transformative!

To celebrate our 10 years we are challenging all our volunteers to 10 actions of change this year. We are going to offer an engagement a month from February to November where you can get involved in an action that touches different organisations across Durban. All organisations have been picked from our partners, and we have tried to vary the type of organisation, beneficiary, volunteer experience and location as much as possible. Numbers will be limited on these days and we will maintain any COVID regulation that is required at the time. Watch out on our social media pages, webpage and newsletter for the announcements of the events, and sign up quickly. Due to limited spaces available, please do not sign up and not show up without giving us warning, so we can fill your slot with someone from the waiting list – as we will be relying on you being there!

Here is to a 2021 that will be great, it will be different, it will be challenging, but we will make an impact that is positive, that brings joy, that makes memories and transforms our City in a good way. We look forward to working together soon. 

Let us make Durban all it was meant to be, together!

Rare Opportunities

The week before lockdown was announced, when there were rumours and nothing concrete, I was dreaming about my lockdown period. I would get back into sourdough bread making. Teach my kids to sew, bake and do various art projects with them I remember from childhood and loved. – or perhaps we would spent the time in the Eastern Cape and help my mom pack up her house. My plan was to take a bit of a breather in life, and get back to basics after a very hectic first term. I could do most of my NPO supporting remotely – since we don’t deal with the end beneficiary directly there was no need for We are Durban to apply to be an essential service.

But then our President made his announcement, and described lockdown to the country and the real need was known. I had a choice stick to my plan or step up to the challenge. We are Durban is part of the eThekwini homeless task team, and is there representing our partnership with many NPO’s. This task team activated at 5am on the Tuesday morning after the announcement to create space for the homeless of Durban to observe lockdown.  We are Durban is a small NPO. Many people do not believe me when I say this, but we only have two paid staff and two YES interns.  We do not have big funders – but many small and individual donors. The path that seems obvious is stay behind the scenes and support. It’s safe, it’s familiar and it’s controllable.

We chose to engage in Durban’s need instead. It was an opportunity to bring about positive change through partnerships we have developed over years.  We were given the mandate to partner with FBO’s, CBO’s and NGO’s to provide food for the homeless lockdown facilities in the CBD, thus ensuring food security. Well within our mandate to partner with organisations to ensure that the poor, widow and orphan are taken care of. We have had the opportunity in this to transform lives, give guys a chance of fighting the virus, identify other sickness and 660 people have come off whoonga or heroin in this time. Our organisation’s name has been in many newspaper articles, online pieces and TV programs. We have come in contact with new donors and new partners.  These are opportunities that would not have happened if we had chosen the safe route.  It has been hard work, it has been long hours, I have had to sacrifice my dreams of a family reset time, and many moments of “I am walking out” but We are Durban is now impacting more people and seeing real transformation in Durban because we said “yes”. 

On the other hand, a friend of mine had the opportunity to run one of the shelters.  She had indicated she would love to do it, but chose not to, as she was scared of COVID.  The shelter was handed to another person to run. That person will probably continue to run the shelter for quite some time. The friend will continue with her normal work, still hoping for an opportunity to engage in that space.

My lesson here is real opportunities are rare, and easily missed.  Many things can prevent you from taking an opportunity – fear, thinking too much of where things could lead, own comforts and the sacrifices needed to take them. You may not see where the opportunity is going to take you but you need to just jump at it and grab hold of it and keep going no matter how many times you want to give up.  I look forward to seeing what the new normal is for We are Durban after this experience, but I can tell you, it will not be the same as before that Presidential announcement.  We are different, better, more influential and so is Durban.

Homeless Lockdown shelters

Having an active homeless task team in eThekwini has been our Durban’s homeless’ saving grace over this very rough period. At 6am on the morning after the announcement plans started to be formulated between the ask team and the municipality as to how we would cater for lockdown for people who are homeless.  Many strategy sessions, go out and see if it will work, come back and rethink, see what doors could be opened, hammer on a number, or force our way through happened in those three days. A plan was hatched. bear in mind we have never had to do something like this before.  We have had preparation through xenophobic  attacks, and through the recent flood disasters, but never have you had to include a medical element to it. This essentially eliminates the very thing Durban is so good at, caring and being there when people are in need. Showing up become the most dangerous thing to do.  Not for the volunteer, but just being there could literally kill someone. For the middle to upper income earners, who are fit and healthy, most of us are not going to be infected in a way that is debilitating. For the people we are serving it could be a death sentence; elderly, drug users, TB or HIV infected, poor diets and years of abuse don’t lend their bodies to fighting off the infection well.  They need isolation, they need to be protected, and many of them need it from themselves.

So starting with the first day of lock down; we opened the Durban exhibition Centre as a screening and placement centre. The facility was only made available for such at 5pm the previous day. The homeless were invited to be heath screened ( TB, HIV and COVID symptoms, and well as some basic primary health care), seen by social work and then placed in one of the 13 facilities we have for them separating women and men and sick from healthy. In this process we were assisted by Department of Health, City Health and NPO’s, and Department of Social.  The first day we assessed 1200 people. Two hundred more than we expected to show up. I know some people are asking why we thought only one thousand would arrive.  Here was our logic… in 2016 the HSSRC did a study in Durban which identified we had 4000 homeless people in the CBD.  2000 lived in shelters and 2000 slept rough.  We figured the 2000 who sleep in shelters would remain in them.  The 2000 rough sleepers probably are now 3000, with inflation, but many had indicated they have somewhere they call home. So we figured about 1000 would chose that option. The study had also shown that between 30 and 40 percent are drug users. Woonga is the drug of choice. Woonga is a heroin derivative. We expected that those people would opt out of isolation due to them not being able to access their dealers.  So yes we thought 1000 in total and possibly 400-800 max on the first day, as people figure out how serious the government is about this lockdown thing. Never in our wildest dreams would we have expected to arrive on Thursday morning at 6:30am to homeless people queuing to get in. 2000 in total. In the end we assessed over three days. Putting and end to it to prevent people cycling through repeatedly seeing what else they could get. The facilities were being established as they were being assessed. Marquees, toilets, showers, electricity, water, connecting the above, fencing, security, site managers, mattresses, blankets – the list of basics was long and at a time when non-essential businesses had told their staff to go home it wasn’t easy to procure these items, and sometimes took a day or two to happen., but happen they did.

In the shelters: some of them are buildings and some are marquees, each person has been given a blanket and a mattress – some have left and sold these in the hopes of getting another one. In the marquees they get given two pallets too – this raises their mattress off the ground and helps with social distancing. They have all been issued soap, toothpaste, facecloths, and tooth brushes  There are teams co-ordinating food, medical assistance, drug withdrawal, chaplaincy services and Friday prayers for Muslims. Our residents get four meals a day; breakfast of maize meal porridge at 6 am, brunch of sandwiches and fruit at 10am, a varying lunch day to day (cooked or sandwiches) and a cooked dinner. We have made a plan for Ramadan to cater for our 70 Muslim residents. Our medical team has been incredible. Michael Wilson from Advanced access and delivery has ploughed time and energy into ensuring the medical state of our camps. He has had his hands full seeing to routine treatment of people, organising Doctors and nurses, ensuring all are screened and tested for communicable diseases like TB and HIV and are put onto the relevant treatment.  He has also had to help the residents cope with withdrawal. Metro police, SAPS, and private security are involved in the security of the sites. They have been phenomenal – such an important part of this process.  These people are not used to being contained, not used to be treated like citizens by policing.  The police have just handled the situations with grace and dignity – sometimes way too calmly that has left us wondering how they could have ever been accused of brutality!?

Boredom has set in at many of the sites. Reading material; books, bibles and newspapers are being provided. Soccer balls are a great distraction, the odd game of cricket and tennis are being played too. And we are back to getting complaints about the food, too little, too spicy, too much bread (I am getting constipated), too much biryani (I have the runs), too salty, too much red meat, I have heard them all. It all stems from boredom – just like us at home.

The response has been a multi-faith, private, public, NGO partnership response, which has been enabled by our working Homeless task team here in Durban. Everyone has come together brilliantly to work as a unit.  Each unit doing its part for the good of those entrusted to our care.  It must be noted that none of this would have been possible without the exceptional leadership of our Deputy Mayor, Belinda Scott, and Acting Deputy City Manager, Vusi Mazibuko, both of which I have the utmost respect and admiration for. In fact, as I type this we are dealing with yet another crisis and at 10pm, without hesitation, I picked up the phone and called the DCM to work on a solution. I really feel blessed to be a part of this movement and moment in our City’s history.  It has been a time where all differences have been put aside and all humanity has come together to serve those at risk, with no expectation of ever getting repaid.

Covid19 Response Strategy

We are Durban has been working closely with multiple leaders and organisations in our efforts to help the most vulnerable of our city. A coordinated inter-denominational church response has been established to tackle the Covid-19 Crisis,  convened by the KwaZulu-Natal Christian Council. Meetings are ongoing to establish the best possible outcomes to ensure shelter is available, groceries and hygiene products are provided and safe spaces created for the lost and fearful.

During a Biological Disaster/Pandemic, such as COVID-19, the four phases of Disaster Management still apply which are: 1. Preparedness, 2. Response, 3. Recovery, 4. Mitigation

South Africa is currently in Phase 2: Response. Governments plan to enforce social distancing to #FlattenTheCurve and reduce overloading our Health Care System can succeed if all individuals play their part. The RESPONSE PHASE STRATEGY is twofold:

1. PREVENTION: Education Training
Distribution of Training material in multiple languages to educate, equip and demonstrate effective Hygiene Practices, Immune Boosting Techniques, Social Distancing Suggestions and methods for Self-Isolation. (Placed within each hamper and communicated during distribution)
2. RELIEF AID: Hygiene & Nutrition Hampers
These hampers are provided to families to help enhance hygiene practices in communities. Each kit will contain a combination of hygiene items for prevention purposes and non-perishable food items to assist during home isolation.

If you would like to make a financial contribution towards a hamper (R350), simply purchase one online via these two platforms.
Domino Foundation: https://www.dominofoundation.org.za/product/covid-19-buster-pack/
City Hope Disaster Relief: https://cityhopedisasterrelief.org/donations/

For electronic contributions please use reference: Covid19/Name. Sec18A Certificates can be issued where required.

A number of city churches across eThekwini are set up for people to drop off any number of items to make up the hampers before the lock down begins.

  • Anthem Church – 37 Mackeurtan Ave, Durban North
  • Glenridge Church at The Station – 65 Masabalala Yengwa Ave, Durban
  • CityHill Hillcrest – 1 Greenmeadow Lane, Hillcrest
  • One Life Church – 462 Alexandra Rd, Pietermaritzburg
  • The CommUnity Project – 18 Trevor Wadley Close, Warner Beach, Kingsburgh

Hi there!

Welcome Prudence and Ernest! We are so lucky to have these two amazing people join We are Durban as our 2020 interns. We enjoy the enthusiasm and breath of fresh air they bring to the team. We thought you’d enjoy getting to know them a little better too, so here is some insight into their hobbies, interests and dreams 🙂

Prudence Mpho Finger
Njabulo Ernest Mtshali

Prudence: 24
Ernest: 26

Prudence: Morongwe Rampooane
Ernest: Xolani Khumalo

Both: A dog

Both: Dog

Prudence: The Fault in Our Stars
Ernest: Black Panther

Prudence: None
Ernest: Four

Prudence: I can pick things up with my toes
Ernest: Athlete sprint runner

Both: When Helping Hurts – Steve Corbett

Prudence: I love Psychology.
Educating people about their mental and emotional health also helping people realize their own strengths.
Ernest: Being true to myself, learning something new and travelling.

Prudence: I would like to see fewer homeless people and in the future, no homeless people at all.
Ernest: An Increase in youth employment and learner-ship programmes

Prudence: While working with babies.
Ernest: Help out on an urban farm

Prudence: “Everything you need is already inside you. Don’t wait for others to light your fire when you have your own matches” Darren Hardy
Ernest: “Knowing is not enough, we must apply!” or “The way get started is to quit talking and begin doing”

Prudence: I see myself as a happy, successful, wife, mother and Clinical Psychologist.
Ernest: Entrepreneur, owning two businesses (Property and Computer Training Facility)

Engaging in actual help (Gender-based Violence)

In light of the recent marches and focus on gender-based violence here are some practical ways people can engage in a helpful solution.

Donate toiletries (soap, facecloth, sanitary pads, toothpaste, toothbrush, shampoo, body lotion, deodorant) and new panties (in all sizes – child to large adult) to:

Name of organisation Brief description Contact details
Jess Foord Foundation Rape Crisis Counselling and support ADDRESSOffice 1, Aloe Block

Fairway Greens

3 Abrey Road

Kloof, 3610


0861 333 449




Hope’s Anchor Hope restoring to Sex Trafficked people EMAIL info@hopesanchor.org.za WEBPAGEHopesanchor.org.za
Domino Foundation Red Light Restoration of Sex workers Offices are based at Anthem ChurchADDRESS37 Mackeurtan Avenue,
Durban North, South Africa


031 563 9605



Umgeni Community Empowerment Centre One of their programs focusses on Sex workers and human trafficking TELEPHONE 031 824 7951 EMAIL:hello@ucec.org.zaADDRESS

16 Mona Road, Durban Central


Or donate to the organisations so that they can pay their staff to reach those women that need your help and support. So donate to any of the above or here are some other options:

Name Brief description Contact
Trulife Life skills education to high school students ADDRESS14 Lyngarth Road, Kloof EMAIL



079 477 3740

Hope for the Heart Pregnancy Crisis Centre Assist with women who are in crisis due to unplanned pregnancies EMAILjanewrightstar@gmail.com ADDRESS


Open Door Crisis Centre Counselling and Shelter for abused and trafficked women EMAILinfo@opendoor.org.za TELEPHONE

031 709 2679


7 Windsor Road, Pinetown