Caritas Disaster Response Team’s maiden effort: clean up in Chaah

Caritas Malacca-Johore Diocese Office of Human Development (Caritas MJDOHD) undertook its first Disaster Response initiative recently.

Mar 31, 2023

Volunteers from various parishes cleaning up the Church of St. Anthony, Chaah.

By Rayvinshie Selvadurai

Caritas Malacca-Johore Diocese Office of Human Development (Caritas MJDOHD) undertook its first Disaster Response initiative recently.

Some 53 volunteers from several parishes across the diocese responded to a call to assist flood victims in Chaah and Yong Peng, severely affected by massive flooding. They gathered at the Church of St Stephen, Yong Peng on March 8, to be briefed by project leaders from CREST (Crisis Relief Services & Training) Malaysia on details and precautions for the clean-up activities.

Equipped with galoshes (rubber boots), gloves, and cleaning equipment, the volunteers proceeded to Chaah in a vehicle convoy — braving foot-deep water on parts of the journey.

Reaching Chaah, they were shocked at the sheer amount of damaged furniture and household equipment piled on the side of every road — testimony to the scale of damage and loss to all.

The area surrounding the main police station resembled a war zone, with badly damaged fences, uprooted lamp posts, and rubbish strewn all over.

The volunteers’ first stop was SJK (C) Chaah, where the ground-floor classrooms were covered in mud and furniture damaged by the floodwaters. Using high-pressure water jets, the teams (which included volunteers from other Christian Churches and NGOs) methodically cleared and washed the classroom floors and furniture – guided by experienced disaster management volunteers from Kuala Lumpur.

They were welcomed by the school authorities, who expressed their profound gratitude to all who came to help prepare the classrooms for use again.

After lunch, they split into three groups. One group packed provision to be distributed to needy families; a smaller group visited two families traumatised by the deluge to provide a listening ear and support with their presence. The third team embarked on cleaning the Church of St Anthony, Chaah. Parishioners from St Anthony joined the clean-up and helped sustain the effort with snacks, drinks, and welcome fellowship for the tired volunteers.

At St Anthony’s, all the mud-soaked pews were removed from the church before the floor could be cleaned with three high-pressure waterjets, and a water sweeper to clear out the excess water.

In the evening, volunteers distributed packed provisions to 30 needy families identified by the parish. They then headed to Labis for dinner before overnighting at our rented homestays.

The next day, they formed two teams: The first headed to Yong Peng to help clean houses while the other was tasked with completing the cleaning of St Anthony’s Church Hall in Chaah, and the parish building.

Again, the pews needed a good douse with soapy water before being dried and rearranged inside the church. Cleaning activities on Day Two continued till evening, to complete as much as possible.

Life-Changing Volunteer Experiences
Volunteer Grace Sebastian reflected on the clean-up initiatives, highlighting the dire need for rehabilitation of the school classrooms which were full of mud and ruined materials. Grace and her team went on to visit the families of Mrs B and Mrs V, who had lost all their belongings in the flood. Both families wept over their losses, but professed faith in God — which Grace found inspiring.

She recounted the story of Mrs V’s harrowing experience during the flood and her efforts to save her elderly neighbour, which eventually led to her near-drowning as her rescue boat capsized. Grace's stories reminded us of the incredible strength and resilience of people faced with disaster.

Karen praised the diverse group of volunteers who worked together effectively to achieve the best outcomes in the short time available. She was heartened by the unity displayed in serving the flood victims.

First-time volunteer, Dass, was saddened by the situation, but grateful to be able to help. He thanked the Caritas MJDOHD Disaster Response Team for their work and hoped to participate in more such efforts.

Myriam spoke about the impact the volunteers had on the families they visited. She shared how families were touched by efforts to restore their homes using jet pumps, sweepers, and brushes to clean mud-coated floors and furniture.

Volunteers also lent words of comfort and prayed with affected families, before handing out groceries and dry provisions.

Our gratitude to Caritas MJDOHD, for covering the meals, accommodation, and transportation for the volunteers.

The Caritas MJDOHD Disaster Response Team has, in a small way, helped restore hope to families badly impacted by the flood. We are reminded of the importance of compassion, charity, and outreach – critically so in times of crisis.

The volunteers were in turn, blessed by humbling, enriching experiences of faith, hope, and perseverance in adversity.

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