Khaya Cheshire started a new chapter in a new building at the beginning of 2021, following the devastating vandalism of their centre in Walmer Township during lockdown last year.
The care and development centre for children who are physically and mentally challenged, provides a safe haven to 23 children of various ages from 4 years old, who are living in Walmer township.
The old premises of Khaya Cheshire, an outreach programme of Cheshire Homes Summerstrand, was situated in Victoria Drive from where the centre had been providing educare to children for the past 16 years.
Cheshire Homes Summerstrand Centre Manager Deidre Burger said the Khaya Cheshire centre was forced to close during the hard lockdown period last year, and within weeks the damage to the classroom was beyond repair.
“Vandals removed some roof panels to gain entrance to the building. Even the fridge was removed through the roof, and we realised that we couldn’t go back to the building,” said Burger.
With the help of one of the centre’s long-standing supporters, Tavcor Motor Group HR Director Megan Stow, a group of businesses came together to supply an alternative space to ensure the children at the centre would continue to get the care and support they need to thrive.
“Tavcor has walked a path with Khaya since the establishment of the centre over 15 years ago and we hold the connection to this special centre close to our hearts. Dynaform has made their warehouse space available to the centre for a period of two years, at no cost, and also assisted in making the space more comfortable for the children,” said Stow.
The converted warehouse space, conveniently located at the Dunes Industrial Park in Walmer, is not only much more spacious to accommodate the necessary Covid-regulations of social distancing, but it also has the added benefit of security.
The businesses who assisted in transforming the warehouse into a beautiful school were the Tavcor Group, Dynaform, Grindstone and RC Construction.
Khaya Cheshire Centre Manager Julia Sargent said generous sponsors also assisted in providing furniture and a gate to the classroom.
“I would like to really say thank you to all those who have made this new facility possible. What makes Khaya so special is that the children, who are often misunderstood in their own communities, find a sense of belonging and identity here at Khaya Cheshire and a feeling of safety,” said Sargent.
She said the biggest current need at the centre would be finding volunteers, particularly trained therapists, to assist with helping the children reach their full potential and identifying those who could get reintroduced into the formal schooling system.
The Tavcor Group also supports Happy Feet, a centre like Khaya Cheshire which provides care to children with physical and mental challenges in the Northern Areas of Port Elizabeth. Happy Feet is an outreach programme of Cheshire Homes Cleary Estate.
Khaya Cheshire Founder Hilary Bolton said the centre was initially started when she was still working as a social worker at Cheshire Homes Summerstrand, in an effort to expand and reach wider communities.
“We are very proud of how Khaya Cheshire has grown from a room at the back of Cheshire Homes Summerstrand, to a registered centre in a new facility. After the vandalism, Tavcor came in to save us once again. They have been in constant support of Khaya Cheshire from the beginning and have partnered alongside us on this journey to support children in need of special education and attention,” said Bolton.