Story by Margaret Bassie

Aerial view of the distribution site. | Photo courtesy of Tzu Chi Foundation

Guided by love and compassion, the Partnering to Serve Humanity consortium, which includes the Tzu Chi Foundation, Healey International Relief Foundation, Lanyi Foundation, and Caritas Freetown on Saturday June 22, 2024 undertook an Emergency Disaster Relief distribution targeting 1,575 individuals from 320 families who fell victim to a devastating fire in Marbella Susan's Bay Community in May 2024.

Supported by the Tzu Chi Foundation, the consortium has previously implemented a 21-day hot meal program, providing daily hot meals to the 1,575 affected individuals. Today, these same individuals received essential relief supplies such as foam mattresses, vegetable cooking oil, rice, blankets, sanitary kits among others to support their families.

This event embodies love, compassion, and care for those affected by the inferno, reflecting the core teachings of Master Cheng Yen, founder of Tzu Chi Foundation. Speaking on behalf of Tzu Chi Foundation, Margaret Bassie conveyed Master Cheng Yen's empathy to the beneficiaries. She said, "I know the items being distributed will not replace what you have lost, but please accept them because they come from a place of love and compassion."

Ishmeal Alfred Charles assures the locals that the consortium will return to see how they are doing. | Photo courtesy of Tzu Chi Foundation

Ishmeal Alfred Charles, the in-country Manager of Healey International Relief Foundation, stated that the consortium has been working with the other partners and the National Disaster Management Agency (NDMA) to ensure that the fire survivors receive the necessary support. "The items you have received are to help you start life anew," he said. "The consortium will return to check on how you are utilizing the items received."

Father Peter Konteh of Caritas Freetown spreads love to the disaster survivors. | Photo courtesy of Tzu Chi Foundation

Reverend Father Peter Konteh, the Executive Director of Caritas Freetown, emphasized the consortium's solidarity during such challenging times. He urged the beneficiaries to be vigilant and report any actions that might lead to future disasters in the community. "Our aim is to protect human dignity and spread compassion and love to the less privileged," he concluded.

Gerald King urged community members to be mindful of their actions to prevent future disasters. | Photo courtesy of Tzu Chi Foundation

Gerald King, the Regional Coordinator of the NDMA, expressed gratitude to the consortium for their timely response. He acknowledged Caritas Freetown and its partners as the first responders to emergencies in the country. "The agency not only responds to emergencies but also educates people to minimize the causes of fire incidents in the communities," King added. He urged community members to take responsibility for their actions to prevent future disasters.

Filled with gratitude, Alie G. Kargbo (in yellow) thanked Tzu Chi and its partners. | Photo courtesy of Tzu Chi Foundation

Alie G. Kargbo, whose pregnant wife and himself are persons with disabilities, described the struggles they have faced since the fire. "My wife and I have been struggling, and we lost everything in the fire because of our physical conditions," he said. "I beg for survival." Filled with gratitude, Kargbo thanked the Tzu Chi Foundation and its partners, saying, "This will greatly improve my wife’s and my livelihood. I can't thank the Tzu Chi Foundation and its partners enough."

The consortium's efforts highlight the importance of compassion and community support in times of crisis, offering a beacon of hope to those affected by the fire at Susan's Bay Community.

Empowering Recovery

The 2-day emergency disaster relief distribution in Susan’s Bay, organized by Tzu Chi, provided critical support to a community in crisis. By delivering essential food, non-food items, and sanitary kits to over 300 households, the program alleviated immediate suffering, improved living conditions, and provided a foundation for rebuilding lives.