Stranded on rooftops for three days as floodwaters rose around their hometown of Buzi, Ismail and Manuel watched the worst disaster in their community’s recent history unfold before them.

“Most of our home is now destroyed, but my family is safe. We are lucky,” Ismail said. In the aftermath of Cyclone Idai, his motivation to help – and that of his fellow Red Cross volunteer Manuel – is stronger than ever.

Ismail, who has been volunteering for 12 years alongside his work as an advocate for school children with sight impairments and for neighbours suffering from malaria, has been organising a group of 30 local volunteers to carry out an assessment of homes damaged by Cyclone Idai. He also spends hours separating grains of rice from caked mud in hopes they can be made edible again.

Manuel, a Red Cross volunteer for the past five years, said that all local volunteers in Buzi have refused the relief items offered to the community. “We let others go first,” he explained. “These are our people, and they need the help. I am here to give back.”

Nearly all of the men’s possessions were waterlogged or lost during the disaster.

“We rescued our Red Cross vests and hats,” Manuel said. “We knew we would need them to help. We have our pride.”

Words and photo: Katie Wilkes/IFRC/American Red Cross