In the early 1970’s the then Chairman of Woodside Sanctuary a residential home for children with profound intellectual disabilities situated in Johannesburg approached a friend in Cape Town to ask if there was any chance of starting a sanctuary in Cape Town as they were receiving a number of applications from the Cape.
A public meeting was called to assess the need for opening a similar home in Cape Town. At that meeting attended by about 25 people, were Mrs Yvonne Friedman, Mr Tony Nielsen and Mr John Hastie.
At that stage it was not known how many children there were in the Cape who was in need of this type of special care. It was decided that a committee be formed with a mandate to start fundraising and to work towards opening a facility. The three members mentioned above volunteered and others soon joined in.
Fundraising was very difficult at that stage as there was no home, nor were there any patients to show the needs of the home. Funds grew slowly and were banked. The committee looked at various houses on the market, thinking it might be feasible to start in a private house in a small way, but they soon realized that this was not practical for the type of care needed. Advocate Gerald Friedman who had by this time joined the committee, successfully negotiated with the City Council for the land on which the Sanctuary now stands to be acquired for the nominal sum of R1.00.
An architect friend was asked to design the ideal project, and he drew up the plans for a home for 80 children who could start with some basic working premises plus accommodation for 20 children. At this time Robert Burgell (architect) was on the committee, having 2 profoundly disabled children himself. He adapted the plans and suggested a basic starter scheme. However the money in the bank was nowhere near enough. An appeal brochure was designed and printed with the picture of Nicola Burgell on the cover, more or less saying “What can we do with Nicola, she has nowhere to go?” This brought in more funds, but we were still far from the target needed for the first module, at that time an estimated R 75 000, 00 in addition to the R 30 000, 00 which we had in the bank. Gerald Friedman showed a wealthy client the “Nicola appeal” brochure and took him to see the vacant land. This man who remained anonymous at his own request and is now deceased, opened his heart and donated the full sum of R 75 000,00 required to build.
At last a start could be made and the building, which consisted of the present kitchen, some of the offices and dining rooms, laundry and the first ward for 20 children opened with five children just before Christmas 1976. A matron and a small nursing staff were hired, and very soon applications came pouring in, and all 20 beds were rapidly filled.
A new appeal was launched in 1977 and another wing was built for a further 20 children. In recognition of the large donation received from the Nomads Golfers, this wing was called the Nomad’s Wing and in no time it was filled.
In view of the long waiting list, the committee, under the chairmanship of Gerald Friedman who had by that time become Mr Justice Friedman, launched an appeal to raise R 400 000, 00 in order to complete the project and provide beds for a further 40 children. This would provide accommodation for a total of 80 children, as well as accommodation for some of the nursing staff, a Day Centre, and more office space. Although fundraising is always a daunting task, it was easier now that there was a home bursting at the seams to show off, as well as many appealing faces and stories to tell, and the target was reached, with shelter for 80 live-in children.
Originally as the Sanctuary was in a “white” group area, only “white” children could be accommodated. However the government was eventually persuaded to issue a permit authorising Woodside to take in a limited number of “coloured” patients. This was a huge step in the apartheid years. Very soon Woodside was full, and proud to be able to raise funds for what was, at that time, the only non denominational and non racial home for severely handicapped children in the Cape. Three of the original five children admitted are still at the home 25 years later. Although in a normal world they would be adults, because of their disabilities they remain children, and need constant care and supervision. Woodside hopes to have made their lives comfortable, and to have provided relief for their families.
Woodside Special Care Centre
In 2003 Woodside Sanctuary was re-named Woodside Special Care Centre who now not only operates as a residential home but also as a long term rehabilitation facility providing stimulation therapy through the occupational therapy and physiotherapy departments.