Burger (34) started this journey in aid of hundreds of desperate, drought-stricken farmers in 2006 after an attempted suicide changed his life forever.
“I’ve had a few droughts in my life and 2006 was a bad year. I tried to commit suicide and I remember waking up in hospital and asking God: ‘Tell me how can I serve you?’”.
Burger waited for a message from God. One night at a braai with family a beautiful lightning bolt struck during a thunder storm. His brother Tredoux commented, referring to the plight of drought-stricken farmers: “God paints beautiful pictures in the sky, but if only He painted as beautifully on earth’.”
This was Burger’s sign. Soon thereafter he delivered his first drought relief aid. “We delivered 30 000 litres of 500 ml bottles of water to an old age home in Calvinia in the Northern Cape.” Their first fodder delivery was also in Calvinia. “I remember there was old man, he came to me and asked, how much does this stuff costs. When I said it was free, he just started crying.”
That night Burger told his mom, Rhoda Groenewald, about his experience, realising that the tears that man shed were priceless. “I made a promise to God,” explains Burger when asked about why he decided to make this his life’s purpose.
He says his biggest challenge at the moment is false rumour and gossiping. “People will say Burre just bought himself a new beach house,” he explains. “We also struggle to find transport and raising funds is a challenge,” Burger adds.
Droogte Hulp met Burre Burger, his non-profit company’s Facebook group, and Burger’s personal Facebook page have received tremendous support. With over 35 000 page likes respectively, Burger receives positive engagements and support almost daily. Inspired by social media and other media reports, one person transported 32 truckloads of feed to farmers in need. Backing like that happens every so often, Burger explains. “The guy who transported that feed said he did it because he could see the difference we’re making in people’s lives.”
Burgers says it’s inspiring to see farmers standing together.
He has even been told that he saved a farming couple’s marriage. “You see, a farmer himself will never send a video of him crying, but the female farmer or the farmer’s wife can see what’s happening on the farm.”
Droogte Hulp met Burre Burger regularly posts heartfelt videos of how farmers are suffering across the country. According to Burger the farmers and their families can only take so much before they burst and plead for help. “That’s when we usually post it on Facebook and we get a lot of support through that and we’re able to support those farmers,” he explains.
Burger believes that farmers are surviving, but it’s still tough. “We’ve been asked what we will do once the drought has passed, but farmers continue to struggle even if they get more rain and we’ll continue to support them,” he adds.
Without predicting what the future holds for farmers throughout South Africa, Burger believes that they will mission on and continue to support Mzansi’s farmers. “Former Springbok rugby coach Pieter De Villiers and I are travelling the country to raise awareness.” Burger never expected this campaign to take off as it has. “I usually go to farms and I will tell them, you guys came in here and trusted that chair you’re sitting on. And if you can trust that chair, you can trust God.”
Throughout Burger’s campaign drives he has emphasised the importance of farmers reaching out to neighbours to find out if they need support. Burger explains that a year ago he had friends visiting and asked them to do one thing. “Go to the farmer next to you and visit him.” Soon thereafter he received a call from a woman saying she visited her next door neighbour and he has nothing. “This guy stays in a caravan and there was nothing on his farm. That same day we organised some food for his sheep,” says Burger.
This farmer foot soldier started a new entity called ‘Boere Hulp’ (Farmers’ Help).
This initiative aims to help farmers to pay their children’s school fees. “We’ve also started a project in Cape Town where we’re asking people to help by donating clothes – new clothes – to donate to people in need.”
Burger has urged Mzansi to try and support their cause. He explains, “We’re not like certain people in our country who says they’re going to do something, then they don’t. We say we’re going to do something, then we do it.”