Non-profit school celebrates 20 years of transforming lives

Established in 2001, Christel House South Africa, a non-profit school based in Ottery is celebrating its’ 20-year anniversary this year. The school, which offers no-fee educational scholarships to students from some of Cape Town’s poorest neighbourhoods, celebrated this significant milestone with a video montage on 20 October, the birthday of its’ founder, the late Christel DeHaan.

The school’s doors were first opened in 2002 at Bamford Avenue in Athlone. A few years later, the number of students grew, and Christel House SA was split into two campuses with half of the students attending the Bamford Avenue campus while the other half attended the school at the Denver Road campus in Lansdowne. In 2009, Christel House moved to Ottery where the school is still currently located.  Today, the school’s beneficiaries include 800+ students from grade RR to 12, 220+ post-matric students and more than 4000 parents and other members of the communities it serves.

“When we started, our teachers went from door to door to recruit children for Christel House. Our prospective parents at the time thought it was impossible. They didn’t believe that you could find a school that was going to give this fantastic education at no cost,” says Carol Kriel, Junior School Principal at Christel House South Africa who has been with the school since its inception.

The school has stayed true to its mission of breaking the cycle of poverty by offering its holistic character-based and career-focused education to students from households where the average income per household member is less than R1,500 per month. 2019 Alumnus, Storm Solomon is one of the many young people who has benefitted from an education at Christel House SA. He says, “Christel House has positively influenced my life by giving me the opportunity to think for myself, broadening my horizons and giving me the building blocks to follow my dream of becoming a Civil Engineer.”

The campus in South Africa is one of eight Christel House schools internationally, with the other schools located in India, Mexico, Jamaica and the USA. Christel House SA’s unique holistic model, includes character-based, career-focused education coupled with poverty mitigation services in the form of daily transport to school and back, professional health care, nutritious meals, psychosocial counselling, family assistance and college and careers planning and support.

The school relies on a network of donors and partners to deliver on its mission year-on-year. Donors who have contributed significantly shared their experiences of Christel House SA over the past 20 years. “I’ve seen first-hand the great work that’s been done at my visits to the school. Education is fundamental to enabling children to grow personally, professionally and socially,” comments Aongus Hegarty, President of International Markets at Dell Technologies.

Christel House SA’s achievements over the past few years shows just how far it has come in only 20 years. A 99% matric pass rate average, Microsoft Showcase School status, a 1:1 student to device ratio and many successful alumni, including engineers, lawyers and doctors are only some of the school’s successes. Plans are also in place to widen Christel House SA’s impact over the next two years. “The world ahead for us is one of widening impact, reaching more people, consistently sharing all the lessons we’ve learnt and enabling more people to become active economic citizens of South Africa,” says Adri Marais, Chief Executive Officer at Christel House South Africa.

Watch staff, students, alumni, donors and friends share their fondest memories of Christel House SA in a special commemorative video:

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