COVID-19 and wildfires . . . ASEZ brought comfort and hope to the depressed community

ASEZ helped out with wildfire recovery efforts in the Rep. of South Africa.

A fire broke out at Table Mountain in Rep. of South Africa, one of the seven natural wonders of the world. Amid the strong winds, it caused a great damage to the University of Cape Town [UCT] nearby. The school authority asked ASEZ for help.

ASEZ mentioned the purpose of this event, saying, “In this difficult situation caused by COVID-19, which has lasted for two years, residents are also suffering from the wildfires. In this difficult time, we need wisdom and love to overcome difficulties together. I hope it will be an opportunity to convey hope and courage even a little bit to the local community.”

On April 29, when the work of putting out the fire was completed to some extent, ASEZ members took part in recovery efforts for the damaged library of UCT. The library housed massive materials such as research papers covering not only the Rep. of South Africa but also the entire Africa continent, maps, rare books, movies, photographs, press, and magazines.

The materials that were destroyed by the fire are as follows: about 70,000 research papers on Africa, about 3,500 video materials, government publications from the entire continent, manuscripts kept for digitalization, and materials stored in archival shelves. Among them, there are rare papers published in the 19th and early 20th centuries, so data search and transfer are urgently needed.

The recovery work was carried out according to the university official’s explanation while keeping the preventive measures for the pandemic. Volunteers formed a long human chain from the basement of the library to the ground floor to move out the crates of materials, which were collected and categorized by professionals, from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Nkanyiso Trevor Masombuka, UCT graduate student, said, “Actually, about two days ago, I just walked here and the building was fine. Now I come back, the building has burned down like this. This is heart-breaking. It was so heartbreaking because even though the building comes back, the material will not come back. As a student of UCT, I wanted to do something in order to help UCT.”

“I am thankful to be able to take part in the volunteer service. I hope the students’ positive energy will be helpful for the university and residents in this hard time. As a graduate student of this school, I thank all the volunteers. I will try hard to help so that our school can be rebuilt as soon as possible,” said Brits Van Zyl, who graduated from UCT.

Principal Librarian Mandy Noble said, “We were desperate for help, and they stayed all day and did an amazing work in helping us. Particularly, they cleared one of our basement stores, and it helped a lot.”

Iziko Museum’s Conservator Nancy Child said, “I really appreciate it and the UCT libraries also so appreciate your help. Your cheerfulness and general positive spirit has made us so happy.”