Sunday, 29 May 2022

A trip to Elim Home in South Africa

The word 'wonder' springs to mind as we leave the hustle and bustle of Cape Town behind us in our rental car. Why? Because our view is and remains breath-taking along the 200 kilometer long ride - with high mountains, it is almost like Switzerland. As soon as we drive into Elim, we are in silent amazement. Here it seems as if time has stood still. We are on our way to Elim Home, a home for children and young people with multiple disabilities.

'Vogelstruyskraal' farm

Driving at a walking pace through the quiet village we see old houses in a classic architectural style, almost all in characteristic 'Moravian white'. We spot the 'Vogelstruyskraal' farm, still in its original condition. It is the place where it all started back then, with the purchase of this farm. Moravian missionary Hans Pieter Hallbeck established the mission station he named 'Elim' in 1824, which is derived directly from Exodus 15:27. Meanwhile, we don't see anyone on the street. It is hard to imagine that here, in this remote location, there is an important home for children with mental and physical disabilities.


The historic, but impoverished village of Elim, with over 1,400 inhabitants, is today one of the best-known mission villages in South Africa. In front of the library stands the only monument in the country commemorating the 1834 liberation of the slaves in South Africa. It reflects the fact that many freed slaves found refuge at missions like Elim.

Elim Home

A little further on we arrive at our final destination: the huge site of Elim Home. Founded in 1963 by the South African Moravians. There are 50 residents aged 5 to 39 with mental and usually physical disabilities. 40 employees provide 24-hour care, physiotherapy and encourage self-reliance (eating, dressing, etc.). Day care in Bredasdorp and Gansbaai (24 children) and home support for children in the region broaden the reach of Elim Home. The house is one of the few places in the Western Cape where care facilities are available 24/7 for the young residents. A little further on the Elim Home site are huge tunnel greenhouses where tomatoes are grown commercially.

Lesinda Cunningham

We are shown around by Lesinda Cunningham, the director who, with the many employees, has been committed to the residents of Elim Home for many years. 'We have a unique position, literally and figuratively', she says. 'Elim Home is the only shelter in this region that offers customised care 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to children and young people with severe disabilities. By tailor-made care I mean in this case not only necessary medical care, but also supportive therapies such as physiotherapy or music therapy. In addition, there are various creative daytime activities. We really want the residents to see this as their home.' Lesinda leads us further through the house, inviting us to interact with the young people who live there.


Working with and staying in contact with the residents helps Lesinda to do her job. But there is more that inspires her. 'The circumstances are tough. Sometimes you are overcome by a feeling of despondency, of hopelessness. I try to hold on to the faith. Without faith it is impossible. You have to imagine that the Moravian missionaries also realised that at the time, when they founded Elim at the beginning of the 19th century, and also the Moravians who founded Elim Home 140 years later, they were convinced that faith in God the Lord would strengthen and encourage them, that He would always be there to help to be able to keep up with the work. It helps me and strengthens me in difficult times to reflect on that. Without faith it becomes nothing.'

Lesinda's motivation is also clear outside Elim Home. Together with her husband Godfrey, she regularly gives presentations in Elim and surrounding villages about the work of the home. They demonstrate that they experience challenges, but at the same time do not succumb to them. Sometimes people enquire about their inspiration as with so many challenges, there must be a strength present. Lesinda emphasises to staff that she does not strive for the staff to be happy with her, but that God is happy with her. And also: the children come first, then the staff, then themselves.


Lesinda's team offers fantastic tailor-made care for the residents. It is clear that this also involves the necessary costs. Just think of the healthcare costs, personnel costs and maintenance costs of the house. Some time ago, Elim Home therefore also started thinking about its own 'earning model', in order to become more self-sufficient. For several years, Elim Home has been growing tomatoes commercially, in order to be able to pay for part of the running of the Children's Home. Those tomatoes are eaten in the home and sold locally and regionally in supermarkets. They also want to make jam and thus increase the profit even more. There are nine tunnel greenhouses on the Elim Home site where the tomatoes are grown. The plastic must be replaced, as well as part of the irrigation system. In addition, fertilizers and new seeds are needed. Every year the profit increased, but this year major maintenance is needed and that is expensive.

How you can support the project

A lot has already been invested in Elim Home's tomato project. A boost now can make the project more robust and the profit from the tomatoes will help to pay for the operation of the children's home. The tomato project also creates five jobs in this region where there is little work; and that's a nice bonus. If you would like to make a donation, please go to our website at where you will also find a video report about Elim Home. You can also send a donation to Church House, payable to Moravian Union Inc, or call 020 8883 3409 to make a card payment over the phone.

Br Daniël Claas Zeist

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Church House is the Headquarters of the Moravian Church in the British Province and is located in London at:
Moravian Church House, 

5 Muswell Hill, 
N10 3TJ


020 8883 3409

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