How one Whatsapp message watered down the drought
Talita van der Heever was feeding her 18-month-old daughter when she had a horrifying realisation. The looming drought meant that parents in Cape Town wouldn’t be able to make baby formula without water. The East London local knew she had to do something to help her neighbouring province. So she sent a voice note over Whatsapp to 300 people with the sound of toilets flushing and taps running. The message: soon this will be a sound Cape Town will no longer hear. Within three hours she was receiving calls from all over South Africa. In 24 hours, people were calling from around the world.
And so Van der Heever’s campaign began. People started donating two five-litre bottles of water each, and farmers and businesses offered up their services, from transporting the bottles to providing spaces for storage. Some companies organised donation, drop-off, and collection points on their own accord and even for free. Schools have also volunteered, with pupils attaching messages of hope to the bottles that get donated to the people of Cape Town. So far, 50 000 five-litre bottles have been collected in South Africa, and donations from overseas have begun trickling in. There are already 70 distribution points across the country, but the campaign keeps on growing as people freely give their time and resources.
“Everybody wants to get involved, and I think that says a lot about the character of the people that’s living in our country,” Van der Heever says. “I just tear up if I think about it.” What began as one woman’s heartfelt plea turned into a manifestation of our national drive, resilience, and care for one another. We can achieve anything when we work together.