Norwich couple's mission offers hope and light
Hope and Light helps children living in shacks in South Africa to escape poverty, violence and abuse. Dianne and Paul Cruickshank, who launched the UK branch of the charity, bring the story up to date.
Just before Christmas in 2004 we went to visit a Children’s feeding scheme in a shack village near Somerset West in the Western Cape of South Africa. There had been an appeal in the local free newspaper, seeking donations so that the children could have some meat with Christmas party instead of the usual mealie meal and vegetables.
In the Apartheid years the village had been lived in by what the South African Government had classified as Coloured people. After the end of apartheid in April 1994, when Mr Mandela became President, people were not restricted as to where they could live . This meant that many families moved from the rural areas to be near a large city where they hoped to obtain employment, get a good home to live in, and education for their children. Unfortunately this did not materialise and so the shack villages and townships grew.
We met Barbara Tofaute, who had recently immigrated to South Africa from Germany and was appalled at the conditions in which the children of the village lived. Enough donations were made to enable the children to have Kentucky Fried Chicken and chips at their Christmas party. They were delighted with such a treat.
Most of the villagers were living in extreme poverty, unemployment was high, as was HIV, and domestic abuse was rife, due to drugs and alcohol. Barbara set up a charity scheme called Hope and Light, a Christian Charity to improve the conditions of the children of the village. Barbara had enrolled help from friends at the Rotary Club in Germany and lost no time in enlisting Dianne and Paul as well.
The first undertaking was the renovation of a disused nursery school. With help from volunteers from Germany, the building was painted, repaired and brought up to a standard that would be able to provide a kindergarten for the children of the village, where they could be kept clean if necessary, fed breakfast and lunch, and cared for in a safe environment, with Christian helpers.
To fund this a sponsor scheme was set up, and while Dianne set about finding sponsors here in Norwich and elsewhere in the UK, Paul worked with HMRC to have Hope and Light (UK) registered as an official Charity. There was a great response from Norwich for fundraising events, and support from Witard Road Baptist Church, the Salvation Army at Mile Cross and from The Citadel Band and singers.
There were around 30 children sponsored by the UK branch of Hope and Light, and Dianne and Paul managed to get to South Africa, at their own expense, at least once each year to report on progress.
In 2009, a piece of land was donated by the Methodist church in the village and with funds raised from Germany and the UK, four safe houses were built and staffed to provide homes for children who had been placed officially in the care of Hope and Light. These children were funded by Cape Town Social Services.
When the children from the Hope and Light Nursery school reached the age of seven, they had to move on to the State school in the village where, sadly, they did not progress, and even lost some of what they had been taught at the Nursery, because of the sheer number in the classes. So, with the help of our sponsors, Hope and Light started it’s own Christian School Year 1 in 2010, with just one class in a mobile Classroom in the grounds of the Nursery. Another followed in 2011.
As this was putting too much pressure on the Nursery’s facilities, we had to find somewhere else to house our school in 2012 for 3 classes, each of between 25-30 children. Hope and Light took on another renovation project and miraculously, by January 18 2012, this was achieved by renting and renovating part of what was previously used as a village Inn.
Fundraising continued both in the UK and Germany and in 2015 we managed to buy a piece of land that was already zoned for a school, but was slightly out of the village, which meant we had to buy a bus to transport the children. They loved the bus as their parents rarely had any transport. We started by using mobile classrooms and again our children were accommodated.
In 2016 a wealthy German businessman heard of Hope and Light by means of a fundraising Golf tournament, and he provided the funds to complete the building of not only our Primary School, but also of the Senior school. The whole school was completed and opened officially in March 2018. Sadly, because of Paul having a hip operation, Dianne and Paul were unable to accept the invitation to attend. However, tributes were paid to Hope and Light UK for the work and donations they had put in over the years.
Since then the schools have flourished, but very sadly Barbara Tofaute is currently undergoing treatment for cancer, and is not presently active on the board of Hope and Light in South Africa.
Some of the children who were originally sponsored in the early years are now 18 and finishing their education. We wish them well and trust that all the care they received from Hope and Light will stand them in good stead for their future lives.
We still have 21 children who continue to have their education and general well-being supported by UK sponsors. We are so grateful to them for their support over so many years, and for their continued generosity into the future.
The Hope and Light website is www.hopeandlight.org.uk and the UK Registered Charity number is 1141782. Dianne and Paul Cruickshank can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 01603 412944.
Pictured above is Hope and Light's school before and after renovation