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Centre to foster hope

Come March next year, the Helderberg will be home to a brand new skills training centre, thanks to the tireless efforts of an ever growing local organisation.

From its humble begin­nings as a soup kitchen feeding hungry children in Sir Lowry’s Pass Village in 2004, Hope and Light Community Welfare has grown exponentially into the remarkable institution it stands as today. Its premises, in Alpine Crescent, Fernwood, are currently a hive of activity, as construction workers put the final touches to the development of a school, various amenities and the skills centre, which will be run as a registered TVET college.

The Christian community organisation was founded as a feeding scheme by German national Barbara Tofaute in 2003 and registered as an NPO in 2004, but she soon found there was a greater need for education in the small village. In 2005, she opened a crèche for 100 children of Sir Lowry’s Pass in her living room to address the crippling socio-economic issues in the community.

“I found that the children would be fed through the soup kitchen, but they would have time on their hands as they did not attend school,” Tofaute, who is CEO and chairperson of the organisation, recalled.

“While the soup kitchen was addressing the plight of hungry children, their families did not have the means to get them educated.”

But the development of Hope and Light did not stop there. Tofaute, a resident of Somerset West, also came to the aid of abandoned children by establishing an orphanage on the premises which once housed The Inn in Sir Lowry’s Pass. After acquiring land, the organisation built four six-bedroom houses to accommodate homeless children.

The kindergarten also led to the launch of a primary school, which has since grown into a middle school for close to 300 children from Grade 1 to Grade 8. Plans to further grow the school up to Grade 12 are already in motion, with classes for Grade 9s and 10s opening next year.

The school and administration building was initially housed in temporary classrooms, donated by various supporters, at its current premises in 2016. Construction to the permanent structures commenced last year and has fast progressed ever since, with all but three classes already housed in the new building.

The development includes the construction of the administration building, classrooms, an aftercare facility, a studio for ballet and dance classes, music room, library and state-of-the-art computer room as well as a multi-purpose sports field for hockey, soccer and basketball, four netball courts, a rugby field and two tennis courts.

The school, which caters for children from Sir Lowry’s Pass, Lwandle, Nomzamo, Zola and Asanda Village, follows the Caps curriculum set by the Department of Basic Education, and hopes to offer Grade 11 and 12 by 2020. Furthermore, it also provides a total of 800 hearty and wholesome meals – breakfast and lunch – to learners daily

“A new development has always led to another and we have managed to grow the organisation with no funding from South Africa,” Tofaute said.

“Next year, we will also open classes for children with special needs, along with the skills training centre where adults can complete vocational skills courses, so they can employ themselves and others in future. The centre will offer courses in line with the South African National Qualifications Framework (NQF).”

The drive to open a TVET college on the premises is all encompassing, explained Josias Hove, financial director at Hope and Light, as it aims to reach the parents of the school’s learners as well. “Education has a ripple effect,” he said. “We can train and educate children as much as we like, but they still return to their homes and environment. So we want to train the parents to be job-ready and aim to change the entire village.”

Courses offered at the centre will include hospitality, culinary skills, information technology, hairdressing, auto mechanics, woodwork, carpentry, entrepreneurial skills, coding and much more. Hope and Light also plans to host a training facility for students to gain practical experience in Gants Centre, Strand in the future.

Remarkably, all these changes have come about as a result of funding from Germany, with the organisation’s three main funders coming in the form of Dietmar Hopp-Stiftung, Heart for Children and Sternstuuden.

A permanent resident of South Africa for 20 years, Tofaute has also successfully appealed to the German government, with the country’s business minister Geld Müller indicating his willingness to support the initiative in writing.

“Through Hope and Light, we have been able to reach so many people with much needed services and we have done so without any money,” Tofaute said.

“We have also been able to employ 55 people through the various projects and will employ up to 80 people once the development is complete. Although some of the parents are able to cover the school fees, we need to subsidise many of the learners, so we are always looking for ways to carry the financial costs.”

Hove shared these sentiments and reiterated that the organisation does not aim to generate a profit.

“Barbara has committed herself to the cause and has given so much of herself over the years,” he said. “And she continues to give of herself through her determination to provide youths with a proper education, building dreams and shaping young lives.”

The next five years, Hove added, will be crucial for Hope and Light as it sets its sights on fine tuning its projects and further expanding the organisation. “We aim to be make the skills training centre the best training institution in the country without losing the Hope and Light ethos and maintaining our social responsibility,” he said.

V The official launch of the school and training centre on 8 March 2019 will be attended by various dignitaries and sponsors. To get involved or for more information, contact the organisation on 081 386 8822 or contact@hopeandlight.co.za. Alternatively, visit www.hopeandlight.co.za.

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