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True caring spirit as volunteers serve food and help the injured

Sunday September 22 2013

A section of volunteers who were feeding the rescue team on September 22,2013 at Westgate Mall Nairobi.  Photo/WILLIAM OERI

A section of volunteers who were feeding the rescue team on September 22,2013 at Westgate Mall Nairobi. Photo/WILLIAM OERI 

AGGREY MUTAMBO
By AGGREY MUTAMBO
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OUMA WANZALA
By OUMA WANZALA
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Since Westgate Mall was targeted by terrorists, the caring character of Kenyans has come out.

A number of volunteers have been serving tea and snacks to security agents and journalists camping at the Mall. Some of these volunteers had their relatives and friends trapped in the attack, while others were simply lucky that the attack began after they had left the venue.

These are people who have supplemented the efforts of the Kenya Red Cross society, St John Ambulance, Aga Khan Hospital and Avenue Healthcare.

Mr Amritpal Rupra’s aunt and sister found themselves in the middle of a standoff between security forces and gunmen. They had gone there for a cooking festival which was being hosted on the rooftop of the Mall.

CONTINUE HELPING

“They were fortunate enough to be released. We took them to the hospital, they were found to be OK. Then I just decided to hang in there and continue helping,” he told the Nation.

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“This morning, I decided to bring in water and bread and everything that I could find. This was my way of thanking those people who helped my aunt and sister, but most importantly to help those in need.”

During our conversation with him, he could often interrupt the interview to give a bottle of water or a packet of biscuits to police officers who were manning the gate at Westgate, or to journalists who had camped here all night reporting the incident.

Mr Rupra lost two other relatives in the attack, but did not give up his intention to help. “This is our country; we have to help the people because that is what we are known for.”

And Mr Kelvin Osido was lucky the attack started only 20 minutes after he had left for town. His office was at the Mall and he lives just a few yards from the building.

“I was supposed to meet a friend of mine there before I could see a dentist. He did not show up so I asked to meet him in town. After about 30 minutes, my friends started calling me asking if I was safe,” he said.

He rushed back to his house, only to find a big contingent of police officers and fleeing people. There was teargas in the air and people asked him to give them water. That was 2pm on Saturday.

That is how he found himself serving people tea. He volunteered to bring his gas cooker, his flour bucket and a packet of biscuits. The gas cooker boiled water for the security officers to use. The gas later ran out but new volunteers came on board.

By yesterday mid-morning, Coca–Cola, Visa Oshwal Community, Keringet and other individuals had brought in drinking water, food, bread and biscuits.

“We have been distributing what we have. I am glad because this is not the first time I am doing this, and more and more people are coming on board,” he added.

Mr Osido who was to attend a Governor’s conference in Machakos as a trainer said this incident means he cannot attend it but he has no regrets because he has drawn satisfaction acting as a volunteer. Mr Osido was joined by his friend, Ane Kaaria who had travelled from Ngong.

Several donations came in, including drinking water, soft drinks, and fruits for security officers and those offering humanitarians services.

For Shobha Sharma, helping the needy has been part of “my hobby.” Born and raised in India, she came to Kenya eight years ago.

“I brought here whatever I had, just to help. I like helping,” she told the Nation. She brought a packet of biscuits and water.

“Yes, we have this incident but kindly take a cup and serve yourself tea,” said one volunteer.

At 2pm, there was food ready for lunch and which was served to all those involved in the rescue exercise.

The food was brought in by several vehicles and whenever the food was running out more and more was brought in.