If you want to get something done in the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley near Hermanus, best to get Creation’s Carolyn Martin in your corner. This dynamo has moved and shaken much in the valley, and it is her we have to thank for meeting the needs of the local farmworkers’ children this year.

When neighbour Antony van Hoogstraten called some months ago to ask her opinion on what to do with the various derelict buildings on his farm Bergplaas, Carolyn immediately suggested using them to house an aftercare and pre-school for the children of the area, and contacted the Pebbles Project for assistance. The Rotary Global Grant also stepped in with initial funding to renovate the buildings.

Carolyn explains: “The children of the workers on the various wine farms in the valley all attend Diepgat Primary School, on a nearby farm. This 100 year old school educates about 60 children from GrR-7 with merely 2 teachers and a teaching assistant. For high school, these children have to board privately in Caledon, their nearest town, as there is no transport to and from the valley, which means the children have little or no contact with their parents during the week, and are often placed with unknown people in unsafe surroundings.”

So the Pebbles Project, an educational trust that focusses on the upliftment of farm workers’ children in the Western Cape, agreed to come on board and establish an Early Learning Centre (ECD), which will feed into the Diepgat school, as well as an After School Care (ASC) for the Diepgat learners, all on the Bergplaas farm.

Elizabeth Naude from the Pebbles Project was appointed head of the programme, and she will be assisted by 3 ASC teachers as well as an ECD teacher and a cleaner/cook.

But perhaps another hero that needs mentioning is Peter Hodgskin, or Dizzy Pete as he is fondly referred to. Pete, who used to own clothing brand AfroDizzy, is an old friend of Anthony van Hoogstraten and has been living on Bergplaas for some years now, clearing alien vegetation. He jumped in to help renovate the various buildings and create a play area. He has great plans to establish a vegetable garden and involve the children in woodwork classes and other skills training. “We have had amazing support from the local Hermanus retailers,” enthuses Pete. “Many folk have donated paint, tools and materials to fix up this place, it is really overwhelming!”

The next hurdle to overcome was transport. These children would all need to be transported to and from Diepgat, Bergplaas and Caledon but private taxis were very expensive and unreliable.

Undaunted, Carolyn started a fund-raising drive for a 22-seater bus, costing nearly R600 000! Visitors to Creation were urged to donate, the local Ford agency agreed to give them a discount on the vehicle, and the parents of the school children arranged talent evenings and sports days to raise money.

Over the Festive Season several generous donors came on board and the money for the bus was raised. It is now transporting around 80 children safely and efficiently to school and after care.

Only a week into the school term and the classes are up and running, packed with smiling faces and supported by capable teachers, shiny, new computers and nutritious meals… and relieved parents back home who can start the harvest assured in the knowledge that their children are safe and nurtured.

All this was started by one dynamic lady, but the community of Hermanus, the generous wine tourists to the valley, the Rotarians and the Pebbles Project, all worked together to make it happen.

-Julia Moore