As almost everywhere in the world no public services are allowed to take place here because of the Corona crisis.
In order to keep in touch with our members, supporters and friends especially during this time, we stream the Holy Mass from Blessed Gérard's Church in Mandeni every weekday at 7:30 am and every Sunday at 9:30 am (GMT +2).
Visit https://www.facebook.com/BGCC.NGO and celebrate with us!
25 years ago, on 26 January 1996, Blessed Gérard's Disaster Relief Project was initiated, when the Department of Water Affairs issued a flood warning for all people living along the Tugela River.
28 years ago, on 4 January 1993, Blessed Gérard's Relief Fund started tto operate. We help people in our area in genuine cases of immediate need,
- to give food to starving families,
- to give clothing to the poor
- to give building material to needy people whose huts have burned down or just
- to counsel and give advice to those who have no solution to so many different problems.
28 years ago, on 18 December 1992, the activities of our Poor-Sick-Fund commenced.
It was 28 years ago, on 28 October 1992, that the -Brotherhood of Blessed Gérard was founded by Father Gérard Lagleder O.S.B., Dr. Paul Thabethe, Sr. Thuli Thabethe, Geoff Kalkwarf and Clare Kalkwarf.
More about this in our chronicle.
Our Pre-Primary School & Crèche was opened on 1 September 1994.
Our children's home was started 20 years ago, on 9 July 2000.
26 years ago, on 24 May 1994, we started our AIDS Education and Counselling Programme.
The interview was conducted in German. This is the translation of the unabridged text:
Dear Dr. Kaminski,
Dear Vatican News listeners,
This is Father Gérard, the head of the South African relief organisation of the Order of Malta, from Mandeni, a town with a quarter of a million inhabitants in the iLembe district in the province of KwaZulu-Natal in the Republic of South Africa.
As for the African continent and the corona infections ...
... according to today’s status, according to the Internet, South Africa is still the leader - in a negative sense, of course - with 3158 infections and 54 deaths, but Egypt, Morocco and Algeria are close on our heels, although in Algeria it is even worse with 375 deaths. Across Africa as of today: 23 203 infections and 1131 deaths.
- The big problem with Africa is, of course, that the health system is not working well in all countries. There are African countries where there is hardly a functioning health system and therefore the people who are infected with corona, and especially those who have a severe form of the disease, are hardly able to get the right help - in plain words - they will probably die from the disease. That is a very sad fact.
- Secondly, there are many conflict areas in Africa and people in these conflict areas are particularly handicapped to worry about their own security, worry about their own health, and often not at all have the means to eat properly and comply with the hygiene rules that would be necessary to be better protected.
How is the situation with us regarding the corona infection?
On Divine Mercy Sunday yesterday, April 19, the Prime Minister of KwaZulu-Natal, Sihle Zikalala, issued a media statement saying openly that the alarm bells are ringing in KwaZulu-Natal. He would like to inform us that not everything is right and that we have to act urgently and drastically, otherwise we risk losing this fight. We cannot behave as if everything was normal. At a glance, he says, KwaZulu-Natal would paint a deeply disturbing picture. Among other things, he explains that 108 of those working in the healthcare sector have already infected themselves with the virus. He says that Corona has become a health emergency and that we are in disaster mode.
All over South Africa, according to statistics from April 19, Divine Mercy Sunday, there are 3158 infections, including 617 in KwaZulu-Natal and 54 in our district of iLembe 26. Nationwide, 54 patients have died. This may all seem much less than in America or certain European countries, but we in South Africa assume that the peak of the wave of infections will reach us only in September 2020. The South African health minister estimates that 60 to 70% of South Africa's 59 million people, i.e. around 40 million, will be infected with the virus over time. An epidemiological institute fears that up to 351,000 people will die from corona in South Africa, and the World Health Organization recently released a number that it is expected that 10 million people will die from corona across Africa. Our problem is that the whole thing sounds just like a disaster warning at the moment, but where you still feel very little of the disaster or feel nothing at all. It is like saying "There will be an earthquake", but the earthquake has not yet occurred, or "There is a tsunami of infection wave" but it has not yet hit us yet. We are particularly afraid because there are many people in South Africa, and perhaps even worse than us, in other African countries, who live very close to each other in slums. There are settlements where 10 to 15 people live together in a room, in a hut. Trying to tell them to take preventive measures, to stay apart from each other or to wash their hands regularly with soap and water, if they have no water and have to go to the next river to get water, is extremely difficult. That is why we are afraid that the infection will get into these slums – as it has already happened in Cape Town - and now there is a big infection wave 100 km south of us in Durban. We expect this to roll over to us eventually. Of course, it is also very difficult to make it clear to people that they have to protect themselves if they have not yet experienced the danger themselves. It was the same story with the AIDS wave. Telling people about a virus that you cannot see, that you have to protect yourself from, where you have to change your lifestyle, that you do not fall victim to it, is very difficult. People only understood after many people had died, and nowadays we have gotten a good grip on AIDS. We hope and pray that the same thing will also happen about Corona, whereas the risk of infection is many times greater than with AIDS.
What is the South African relief organisation of the Order of Malta doing?
We run a large hospice, the largest inpatient hospice in South Africa, and that has three sections, namely
- AIDS treatment. We have over 700 AIDS patients on treatment. They got their medicine for the next two months in advance to make sure they have the medicine and do not have to leave their home to get the medicine.
- We have a large inpatient unit in the hospice; and that is our great fear, because of course we have mostly immunocompromised patients there, but also geriatric patients who are old and weak and therefore belong to the high-risk group.
- We then have a large children's home in the house and many of these children have previous illnesses, so that they also belong to the risk group.
We have to protect them. What we do is that we have taken strict measures to prevent infection:
- Firstly, we allow no visitors.
Our gate is closed and the security guard does not let anyone in.
- Our staff, who of course have to enter, are subject to strict disinfection measures, have to wash their hands with soap and water, have to keep disinfecting their hands and wear protective masks.
I am very enthusiastic about this staff right now,
- They do their job very faithfully.
They do not stay at home out of fear, but because they say, “I'm the caregiver. I cannot stay at home”.
I admire how they calm the fears of the inpatients with great dedication,
- Our educators look after the children who cannot go to school.
There is a complete lock down in South Africa, which means that you are not allowed to leave the house. Therefore, of course, the children cannot go to school, cannot visit friends or move outside the fenced area of our Care Centre. Our staff is infinitely nice with the children, cares for the children, entertains the children, and learns with the children that the cancelled school lessons are replaced as well as possible. They keep them in a good mood, do sports with them and maintain nice interactions in the house. Therefore, I am extremely grateful to the staff for being very proactive here.
A nice thing that also happens in the children's home is that some of our educators sew facemasks with the children for their own use as a leisure activity and this is not only entertaining, but also a protective measure, of course, because it is becoming increasingly difficult to purchase such protective equipment.
We still get disinfectants and gloves, but it is becoming increasingly difficult to find a company that still offers them. We already have difficulties is to purchase these facemasks. Getting them, especially the medical masks, is particularly difficult.
There are some people - very well meant - who tell us from Europe or America "We are sending you donations in kind", but this is not possible at the moment because the air traffic is quite limited and because of course the postal traffic here in South Africa has also completely stopped. So neither letters nor parcels are transported. Sending goods from abroad makes no sense. In addition, the freight costs for the donor and the customs fees for us are costly, and the formalities during the so-called home office era are infinitely difficult. All this is often not in a sensible relation to the value of the goods. That is why the best help is really to help us with financial donations, so that we can buy the protective equipment wherever we can still get it.
Another major drawback is that I would actually have been on a donation tour in Europe since today. Of course, my flight was cancelled and so I cannot go there. I do not even know if this will still be possible or will make sense in the rest of the year. That is why we are very limited and impeded in our donation campaigns and hope to reach people in this way and electronically to knock on their heart and ask them to support us in our work through their donations.
Here, people cannot pay for their treatment because the people we care for are have-nots. These are people who often do not even know how to write health insurance, let alone that they have one. There is no health insurance obligation in South Africa and therefore only the wealthy can afford to have voluntary health insurance. We also do not run social entrepreneurship services where we sell our help and are paid by health insurance companies or other sources, but we have to finance all our work through donations and grants and therefore really depend on fundraising. That is why we are very grateful when people help us that we can help and give new hope to the hopeless people here, who are particularly at risk because of the Corona crisis.
16 years ago, on 1 April 2004, was the official commencement of our AIDS Treatment Programme.
21 years ago, on 30 March 1999, our first aid and emergency service made its first deployment.
27 years ago, on 15 March 1993, we opened our Malnutrition Clinic.