In January 2010, after a rough few years health wise, we decided to treat ourselves to a wonderful holiday - 3 weeks travelling around South Africa. On our travels we stayed for 3 days in a town called Swellendam, which is about 2 hours from Cape Town. We did the usual tourist things, sightseeing and played golf then on our last day in Swellendam we went to visit the Sulina Faerie Sanctuary - not really knowing what it was - and it turned out to be a wonderful garden tucked away in a side street.
On entry to the Faerie Sanctuary we were met at the gates by a lady who was a little apologetic at having to charge us 100 rand each for entry (this equated to 90p). We happily paid this money and strolled through the gardens, stopping at alcoves, water features and reading signs: Faeries are natures guardian angels, and pixies remind us to have fun. We then wandered around the house - an Aladdin's cave of everything to do with the faerie world. Sulina turned out to be a non-profit organisation with the proceeds going to local charities including AIDS orphans, street children and alcoholic abuse.
On walking around the sanctuary we saw lots of photos on the wall of children who looked to be quite bedraggled. We asked the lady what the story was behind these children and she explained that they were from the local shanty town and some were AIDS orphans or from alcohol dependant parents. She then went on to tell us the story of a lady called Cynthia Tobias, who, along with her husband Harold, had opened up their home to these children, who were aged from two to sixteen. Many of them lacked a stable home life and lived in crowded shacks which get very hot, so Cynthia and Harold offered them a place of refuge, providing a meal, help with homework, and space to play.
On leaving the sanctuary our hearts felt heavy and we couldn't get the images of these children out of our minds. Later that same day, we went back to the Faerie Sanctuary and asked for Cynthia's telephone number. We rang Cynthia from our hotel room and she was lovely, she invited us round to her home on Cooper Street and she proceeded to tell us the story of how the children would knock on their door and ask for food. This is how it all began. Cynthia took the children in and fed them and, of course, they brought their friends - how could she turn them all away? This has now blossomed into a responsibility and we realised at this point that we needed to help Cynthia and Harold with their plight. This would be a small drop in the ocean with the amount of poverty in certain areas of South Africa but if we could help them in some way, we would certainly do our best.
Although Cynthia and Harold receive no official help, many local organisations and individuals support their work. With this help Harold managed to build a Log Cabin on a piece of land next to their house so the children could get shelter. There are 35 children in total.
After our visit we came home and appealed to all our friends who were more than happy to help us. We then asked if anyone had any toys they could spare and this is where our toy appeal began. We were inundated with toys....... dolls, trolleys, footballs, skateboards, bikes - it was wonderful. What we hadn't realised at this point was the cost of shipping these items out to South Africa. We just couldn't afford to do it. Then along came our guardian angels - TNT Express delivery - and they shipped all the toys out for us. We just couldn?t believe it!
Cynthia, Harold and the children were beside themselves and below is a link to the letter she sent us.
We now needed to make sure these children received Christmas presents from Santa. We mean real presents with their own names on. We then enlisted the help of lots of colleagues from work - Alere Ltd. UK, who each chose a child to purchase a Christmas present for. What fantastic people we work with. They didn't need asking twice, they all immediately came on board with their generosity.
This all happened back in 2010, since then lots of things have happened and life has moved on but Cynthia and the children are still very firm friends. We are no longer able to send out presents due to cost issues so we now hold a Charity Golf Day on the first Thursday of July every year. We receive a lot of support from regular supporters and new friends also come on board. The annual golf day makes sure that the children receive a visit from Santa every year and no child is ever left out..
Bill and I would like to thank everyone who has become involved in this project and made Christmas such a special time for these children but, more importantly - it has given them Hope.