Nestled in the Hemel en Aarde Valley near Hermanus in the Western Cape Province of South Africa, lies Camphill School, a sanctuary for children with intellectual and other disabilities. Established in 1952, as an independent special needs school, it has offered generations of children the opportunity for high quality education and care. One of only two small special needs schools in the vast, largely rural Overberg region, it caters for both day and residential learners, aged from 5 to 19 years. Pupils receive high quality, individualised education in small classes, and have access to a wide range of therapies, an educational psychologist and a social worker.
Devastatingly on 11th January 2019, Camphill School Hermanus and the neighbouring Farm Community were ravaged by a raging bush fire and although, thankfully, everyone was evacuated safely, many of the buildings and parts of the estate were severely damaged.
They were faced with the monumental task, and cost, of relocating residents to safe homes and places where they could continue their learning and therapies as well as setting up administrative facilities such as computers, wi-fi and phones so that communication between staff, to ensure the smooth running of the school and day-to-day life, could take place.
This turned out to be a period of 6 months, prolonged by the fact that the bush fire had ignited an underground peat fire in the wetland situated below the Community which covered the entire area in thick smoke and released a strong smelling, toxic gas.
The Camphill Foundation UK & Ireland provided a £10,000 grant to the Association of Camphill Communities UK & Ireland which was donated to Camphill Hermanus and used towards the uninsured losses and expenses. This included rebuilding the infrastructure and restoring buildings and facilities, fixing security fencing and ensuring the whole estate was in a safe condition for all to return.
With Covid-19 following in the months to come, the community was hit hard, and although by July 2019, Camphill Hermanus were able to welcome back learners, staff and the whole community, they are still, sadly, feeling the financial impact of this devastation today.
Camphill School Hermanus would like to thank Camphill Communities Worldwide for their contributions and to the Association of Camphill Communities UK & Ireland for their financial support towards the uninsured losses which enabled them to rebuild their community.
It brings us great reward knowing that we played an important part in their recovery.
To find out more about Camphill School Hermanus, please visit www.camphillschool.org.za