Never underestimate a man and his truck, or a community and its heart.
Ubuntu Army has successfully responded to crisis and disaster in Kwa-Zulu Natal, and South Africa, over the past three years, supporting the vulnerable, and newly vulnerable under exceptionally challenging circumstances. UA shepherded hundreds of thousands of Africans, throughout South Africa, to safety, through the hunger and starvation that resulted from the collapse of the informal sector during the Covid lockdown era, through the loss of life, property and livelihood that the devastating riots and violence in KZN and Gauteng caused in July 2021, and through the April 2022 floods that caused widespread loss of property, resource and life in KZN.
We have learnt so much. We have learnt that individuals alone, and together, can make a real difference in crisis situations. We have learnt that compassion, connection and community are at the core of everything good, and that all too often, greed, money and politics, underpin all that fails. We have learnt that disaster relief should often not be left solely to the “professionals” or the NGOs. This we have learnt many times over. We have learnt that disaster response is not a short term undertaking. In fact, the real work in disaster relief only happens months after the initial crisis has passed, when the true nature of the humanitarian crisis reveals itself.
The success and commitment of the Ubuntu Army response to disaster is best Iillustrated by a brief case study of our response to the floods that destroyed Inanda in April 2022. UA arrived in the mud, amongst those most affected by loss in the Inanda Valley, 8 hours after the floods hit Kwa-Zulu Natal. We left 8 months later. In those 8 months, we built a map of loss. We spent those 8 months on the ground, in the mud, creating that map. We knew where everyone who had been effected by loss, was living. It was the only map of its sort in Inanda. With that map, we gathered appropriate resource, established appropriate logistics and spent the next 8 months supporting the vulnerable, the homeless, the traumatised, the hungry. We managed to reach everyone, and we worked until the job was done.
Most NGOs and corporates did not work until the job was done. A great deal of well publicised, relief work was packed-up within two weeks of the rains, as the cameras and the news cycle left Inanda. It would appear that the work doesn't count if it isn’t publicised. Many relief agencies, corporates and celebrities popped-up in the days following the disaster, and then dissolved into the ether as quickly as they arrived, hot on the heels of the cameras. Ubuntu Army remained long after the cameras and press had left. Long after the relief agencies and NGOs had left. Or in some cases, even arrived. Ubuntu Army did an incredible job. This is the extent of our publicity.
the charity industry
It turns out that crisis is a hot-commodity. The non-profit sector, is an industry, like all-others. We've seen it. Repeatedly. Most non-profits corporations make money out of their efforts, while signalling that they are finding real solutions to suffering. This is a damaging, disempowering lie, wrapped in a warm blanket of virtue. In truth, they are businesses, working to establish revenue streams to pay for their obscene overheads and salaries, working to expand as an organisation, in size and importance, and working, essentially, to prosper.
If the vulnerable are to be supported, then it is necessary to break the spell that the non-profit industrialists enjoy. Their relief work is big business, their virtue signals, marketing materials. Do not give them your money, your mandate, your permission or your power to help on your behalf, unless they are fully transparent, on the ground, in the mud, working from heart, and convert the vast majority of your contributions into discernible work and results.
Ubuntu Army’s response to crisis is personal. You and I, and the rest of UA, step in, behind the ordinary people on the ground, who are standing-up for the members of their community who have become vulnerable as a result of a disaster or crisis. UA adds the weight of our experience, network and resource to the individuals marshalling the local, on-the-ground response to crisis. A local-global-grassroots response to crisis and disaster, harnessing the power of the ordinary people, both-on-the-ground and around-the-world, to support the newly vulnerable.
At the core of UA's response to crisis, is expertise, local knowledge and network, but above all, community and compassion. It is not about money, publicity, or recognition. It's personal, and this makes the UA response lethal.
At the core of a transparent and sustained response to crisis, Is on-the-ground accountability in the distribution of money and resource. It is not possible to manage resource or response remotely. To this end, an Ubuntu Army trustee travelS to the disaster area to manage the distribution of global contributions, and to offer support and guidance to the local responders, in developing a plan of response, and in identifying the local network of people and logistics available to help. Ideally, an on-site-point-person will emerge as the crisis unfolds. If this fails to happen, the UA trustee will develop an on-site leader, who is directly unaffected by the crisis, and who is able to take control of the UA response when our trustee leaves.
Ubuntu Army has a three phase response to disaster.
The newly formed Ubuntu Army team, of local responders and an Ubuntu Army trustee, begin an on-the-ground assessment of the scale of the crisis, creating a map of those affected, and a list of the needs of the newly vulnerable. The team does this in person, on the ground. This is essential to create an accurate objective towards which to work, and avoids shotgun-charity, which hinders relief for, and leads to resentment and entitlement.
With the map of loss established, the team creates a local network of those available to assist, and develops a spreadsheet of the available local logistics, resources and assets. This information is used as the foundation to the local and international mobilisation of money, resource and logistics, and forms the basis of phase 2.
A dynamic process of on-the-ground, in-person support to the newly vulnerable, underpinned by international and local resource. All available resources, people, logistics and expertise, identified in phase one, are applied by Ubuntu Army to meet the needs identified in phase one.
We begin with the basic needs of security, food and water, and shelter, in the order particular to the crisis. As time and circumstances change, so do the needs of those identified as vulnerable, and so too, does the map of need. The map, and our response is ever changing. Once a degree of stability has been achieved, where all immediate danger has been mitigated, we progress to phase 3.
Ubuntu Army establishes a supply chain of basic needs to the vulnerable, for a period of time appropriate to the scale of the crisis, appropriate to the area of operation, and, appropriate to the living conditions of those affected, prior to the crisis. The time frame also depends on the response of in-country government and relief agencies operating in the area, to creating medium- and long-term security. This is the point at which the true extent of the crisis reveals itself, as the centralised response reveals itself. UA will remain on the ground until the vulnerable are safe.
As the crisis resolves, we look to reinforce the support structures that have developed during the crisis, and to nurture the connections and links that are formed between people during the crisis and response. This forms the basis of our exit.
UA has a clear vision of our involvement in crisis response, and in the lives of the newly vulnerable, a vision for longer-term logistics and supply to solidify the success of our response, and an exit strategy from the area.
The Ubuntu Army team will remain in place until the vulnerable are self-sustaining and safe, and have a discernible path to recovering their lives. The UA trustee leaves once a time-table for response-withdrawal has been committed to.
The connections and community created during the response, between previously separated and anonymous members of a community, town or city, form the basis of long term recovery, as responders take personal responsibility for the vulnerable. These connections remain long after the crisis has resolved, as a testament to the power of the ordinary, everyday people taking personal responsibility for their community. These Ubuntu Links are the cornerstone of connection and community, and will end structural and temporal poverty and vulnerability.