A new cottage and new hope for Lakehaven Child and Youth Care Centre

The Sibaya Community Trust has delivered on his promise to Lakehaven Child and Youth Care Centre (Lakehaven) with the opening of a new cottage to accommodate 12 boys as well as a memorial to acknowledge the eight young lives lost in a tragic fire at the home in 2016. The project, which commenced in August 2017, was built at a cost of R2.5-million. Officiated by His Royal Highness King Goodwill Zwelithini, the opening celebration marked the start of a new era of hope for Lakehaven.

“Our promise to help rebuild Lakehaven has been fulfilled, and there is nothing more heartening and gratifying than to see the smiles of appreciation on the faces of the children. We are pleased to have been part of this project which marks a new beginning and brings new hope for Lakehaven.

“We can all appreciate that running a centre of this nature and taking care of vulnerable young children requires considerable resources and significant funding as it is. The centre was then dealt a horrific blow when Cottage 3 was ravaged by a fire in the early hours of the morning in July 2016, claiming eight young lives. While mourning the loss of the young children, the centre was faced with a tremendous predicament; to rebuild the cottage. Now, with the new facility ready to take in 15 young residents, Lakehaven can move forward. We wish the staff and children of Lakehaven a hopeful and joyful new beginning,” says Chairman of the Trust Tristan Kaatze.

In the years before the fire, Lakehaven was registered to cater for the needs of 60 children who are abused, neglected and abandoned between the ages of 6 years to 18 years. All of the children are placed at the Centre through a court order.

Lakehaven was established in 1959 when it opened its doors to receive its first group of children. The opening marked the historic point in the Community for the care of destitute, orphaned and neglected children. When the first children were admitted, Lakehaven was a very remote and makeshift institution. Few, if any, of the comforts or conveniences enjoyed today were available at the time. In 1960, the second cottage became available for use; the third in 1965; the fourth in January 1972 and the fifth in December 1972.

When Cottage 3 was gutted by fire on the 14th July 2016, eight young children lost their lives.  It was a deeply tragic disaster with a frenzy of public support, intense and frequent internal and external safety  and operational audits and penetrating media scrutiny, all the while with Board, Management and Staff galvanising the situation as best as it could. The entire organisation was shaken and everyone worked earnestly to identify gaps in the systems and worked to fix them.

The Sibaya Community Trust, which works to support the vulnerable in nearby communities, responded to the tragedy by offering support for the rebuilding of infrastructure at the home in May 2017to the value of R2.5-million. The Chairman of Sibaya Community Trust Mr Tristan Kaatze and Trustees Mr Vivian Reddy and Judge Vuka Tshabalala approved the budget and funds were for rebuilding the home and creating a space where the children that had been lost would be remembered. Work on the site got underway in August last year. The Chairman of Child Welfare Mr Pillay noted ‘We deeply thank the Sibaya Trust for creating this beautiful home for our children. It will allow us to care for them in the best way possible.’

Now complete, the new cottage features modern and comfortable finishes and offers a fully furnished care unit. The memorial for the children who lost their lives in the fire has been built where Cottage 3 once stood, offering a peaceful space for reflection.

“There is no trust more sacred than the one the world holds with children. There is no duty more important than ensuring that their rights are respected, that their welfare is protected, that their lives are free from fear and want and that they grow up in peace.” – Kofi A.Annan, UN Secretary-General