by Loushe Jordaan Gilbert
With more than 10 branches in the country and seven abroad, it’s safe to say that aid organization Gift of the Givers (GOTG) has spent the past 31 years to better the world through providing the necessary help people need.
Speaking to VOC Breakfast presenter Daanyaal Matthews on Thursday morning, Gift of the Givers WC Project Manager, Ali Sably said the aid organisation was established by Dr Imtiaz Sooliman, after a spiritual leader instructed him to form an organisation to help the destitute.
On August 6, 1992, Dr Sooliman was instructed by his spiritual leader Sheikh Muhammed Saffer Effendi al Jerrahi to start an aid organisation.
Sably said Dr Sooliman had no idea what he was going to do or how he would manage serving communities while still running his three successful surgeries, but he was obedient and started the organisation embarking on their first mission in Bosnia where a war was underway.
“We sent 32 containers, and we sent the world’s first containerised hospital, which was equivalent to the best hospitals in Europe. Over the years we responded to everything from wars, massacres, natural disasters etc. we are always on the ground and there is always a spiritual being behind any intervention we tackle,” Sably shared.
Highlighting some of the work the organisation has done, Sably said the only reason why they are still able to do what they do is due to prayer and the guidance from the Almighty.
“In 2010 when are teams were in Haiti, an earthquake killed 250 000 people in under 45 seconds. We were on the ground actively trying to assist where we can. On the 8th day our search and rescue teams heard a noise coming from the rubble and they used our equipment and to their surprise they pulled out a 72-year-old lady. This lady had no proper oxygen, food, or water for 8 days, but the first thing she said when she saw the team was “I love God, I love you”, that is the kind of stuff that keeps us grounded and motivated, when people can acknowledge that we can only do what we do through the guidance of Allah (God),” he added.
While attending to another natural disaster in Pakistan, Sably said once again they beat the odds and were able to assist many people stuck on top of a mountain after a massive earthquake wiped out two provinces.
“When our teams arrived in Pakistan, we were asked what we were doing there as things were bad on the ground. There were bodies everywhere. Dr Sooliman asked the officials in Pakistan to make a hospital available for us and we turned that into a 300-bed facility. The greatest challenge we had on that mission was that so many people were stuck on top of the mountain with no way to get down- long story short a South African, we needed Airforce helicopters, we met the American army (we all know the stance of the American army,) but the person in charge happened to be African, and he helped us get choppers, that could not have happened without Allah’s hand being upon us and the organisation,” Sably stressed.
Touching on what GOTG are current doing in Palestine, Sably said over the last 48 hours, the situation has escalated and is very tense.
“Our teams are on standby to go to Gaza, but we are just waiting for the go ahead. In the last 48 hours, the Israelis are going after those who share information about what is going on that side, but we are ready and just waiting for the go ahead,” he added.
When speaking about how the staff of the organization copes after being exposed to areas that are volatile, prone to severe conditions or just being exposed to numerous graphic scenes and situation, Sably said they have measures in place to sort of help people stay mentally sane.
“Doing aid work is a calling and not just for anyone. We are exposed to things that could mentally drain you or traumatize you, but we have counsellors available to assist. However, I must be honest, we have so much work to finish that we hardly have time to process what we see. Emotional distance is something we always talk about because you can’t get attached to the projects you work on otherwise it will affect you, but prayer honestly keeps us going,” he stressed.
GOTG serves humanity unconditionally, assisting all of creation, irrespective of race, religion, colour class, political affiliation, or geographic location.
GOTG mission is simple yet powerful: to react swiftly in times of disasters, working promptly to restore dignity to the most vulnerable in their time of need.