Angels of Alex fight fires

  • Angels of Alex
A pall of smoke malingers over Alexandra Township on the outskirts of Sandton, Johannesburg. Not an uncommon sight in winter, as those living in corrugated shacks, with broken walls of wood and plastic heat the freezing Joburg mornings with coal and kerosene. And then, like clockwork, the shacks erupt in spontaneous combustion, as a knocked over lamp, an ember gone awry, or an illegal electricity connection turns the favela into an inferno.
by HOWARD SACKSTEIN | Jul 09, 2020

On the morning of Thursday, 2 July, as the blaze engulfed the area, hundreds of residents dragged their meagre possessions from their shanty homes, and spaza shop owners ran to salvage what they could from their stores. Personal belongings and shop fittings littered the narrow alleyways as buildings smouldered around it. No one knows how or where the fire began, but by Thursday evening, 200 shacks had been destroyed and more than 1 000 were homeless.

Seraphs come in many forms, but when Glynne Wolman of The Angel Network heard of the devastation, she immediately activated the network. By Friday afternoon The Angel Network had delivered more than 2 500 blankets, 1 000kg of food, as well as hundreds of black bags of cutlery, crockery, and clothing to the survivors of the blaze.

“We are blown-away by how people have rallied to help. We are humbled by strangers who have been incredibly kind and generous in helping other strangers in their time of need,” says Wolman.

But the guardian angels never sleep. By Saturday afternoon, a further eight tons of food and clothing were heading into Alex. Wolman’s driveway in Morningside overflowed with boxes, bags, and parcels of food.

The Angel Network also partnered with non-profit organisation Rays of Hope to purchase corrugated iron sheeting for residents to re-build their paltry homes, and Put It Out donated 250 mini fire extinguishers to be kept in people’s homes in the informal settlement.

The Angel Network has also been instrumental in establishing more than 70 Community Action Networks, mobilising neighbourhoods around Johannesburg to feed and clothe the hungry during the period of lockdown.

With the distant sound of ruffling wings, the sounds of the melancholy melody of Sarah McLachlan lingers like the smell of soot in the air, “You’re in the arms of an angel; may you find some comfort here.”

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