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Losing Everything but Hope

Monday 12 December 2016

A story about 5 year old Sabelo who lost everything during the recent flash floods in Johannesburg.

When you meet Sabelo for the first time it’s hard to imagine that this 5 year old boy has just experienced a horrific loss. His cheerful, friendly nature fills everyone he meets with joy and hope.

But, surrounding him is the devastating aftermath of recent flash floods that claimed close to 6 lives. The debris and destruction that threads through this community is a painful reminder of their recent trauma. Despite warnings of further rains, effected families try to replace the wreckage with new homes built of cardboard and tin in an attempt to create some normality.

The whole community is in mourning including Sabelo’s grandmother, Zanele who silently weeps as she reminisces about the life they built and the memories they made over the years in this informal settlement of Seswetla, Johannesburg.

“When I saw the water rising in our house, over the sofa, over the TV, I was so scared. I just grabbed Sabelo and put him over my shoulder.

I used the other houses to balance and tried to get us to the bridge. I just thought about Sabelo the whole time.”

Zanele and Sabelo have taken refuge at Save the Children’s early childhood development centre along with 14 other children and their families. “At least we have a place to sleep at night, but it is hard. When I look at what we have lost, everything is gone. His birth certificate, our ID’s, our clothes, everything is gone.”

She looks down, with one finger surreptitiously rubs the tears from her eyes and takes a deep breath. Then Zanele explains, that this is the second biggest tragedy to impact Sabelo’s life. His mother went missing when he was just two years old and he has been in her care ever since. 

“I could see he was scared too, but I just held him to comfort him. I know this is effecting him.”

Though the signs of trauma are not obviously visible in this smiling young child, Zanele explains that Sabelo was deeply affected by the sight of his home in rubble. “We went there to see what we could get back. It was not good for Sabelo.”

The trauma of experiencing a natural disaster for children in under-resourced communities often goes unattended. However, it is critical that we begin the healing process by allowing children the space to express themselves. While we are working with families to assist in piecing together their basic material needs, and help restore their dignity, we know that the hard work lies ahead in helping children cope with the tragedy they have experience.

The Appeal:

Support us in our immediate efforts to provide basic necessities to these effected families. Donations of clothing, blankets, face clothes and toiletries can be dropped off Save the Children.

We are receiving donations at our Johannesburg and Pretoria office:

Johannesburg office

 53 Von Brandis Street



Pretoria office

2nd Floor SAQA House

1067 Arcadia Street



To support our ongoing work in this community please donate online at