A Tribute to Monika

“Homes to Grow” has been running for eleven years!  We look back at all the trials and tribulations and are thankful for overcoming many hurdles.  The journey has not been easy – and challenges will always present,  but it is all the more worthwhile seeing how the children respond and grow with our nurturing support.  Each trustee plays a crucial role, but we especially pay tribute to Monika for her tireless efforts.

Celebrating her 80th birthday, we’ve found a selection of photos from past files, showing her hands-on approach – her love of the children, and her continuous support and encouragement.  Those who know Monika well, will often note how much she can pack into a day, and that she keeps going well past midnight on this or that project.  Always on call for getting the children to various extra-curricular school functions or to appointments for checking the status of their health; waiting interminably at doctors consultancy rooms or hospitals.   Arranging fundraising drives, taking the children on educational or fun outings…. besides the many tasks she undertook whilst holding the “Chair” for so many years.


This nurturing instinct also extends to growing plants…. those green fingers of hers can coax anything to grow!  She encourages the mothers to grow vegetables and the children all chip in to help. It’s also a pleasure visiting her at her apartment, walking through a courtyard filled with greenery: flowering orchids, wonderful succulents and hanging baskets.

During this time of pandemic and social-distancing, instead of inviting her friends and colleagues to celebrate an 80th Birthday Bash on August 30th, she is donating R3000 to the trust.  For those who would like to mark the occasion, she requests that in lieu of gifts we may also consider making a donation.   Also as previously posted there is an option of purchasing copies of  Suzette Duby’s watercolour scenes from past calendars.   As spring comes blazing in with swathes of colourful wild flowers, this is fittingly captured in one of the scenes.

Monika, you rock!   On this special occasion we wish you joy and contentment and many more fulfilling years ahead.


Marking a Milestone

Dear Friends,

As time draws closer to the occasion of my 80th birthday at the end of August, I’ve been reflecting on the many blessings which have enriched my life.   I’ve been so fortunate that from a young age, I became involved in the care of children. As a young teenager I started out babysitting toddlers in my neighbourhood which led to choosing a profession in physiotherapy which would enable me to work with children.

Many years later when I followed my husband to South Africa and settled on these beautiful Cape shores, I cast around for volunteer work and here my commitment to helping underprivileged children began at the Masiphumelele Township crèche.  After five years of working there, fate intervened with greater plans!  Together with 6 like-minded friends, the St Francis Outreach Trust was established.  We started on ‘a wing and a prayer’ and through the strength and support of many donors – local and overseas – we opened the doors to our first home in 2010.  A second home soon followed and since then we have provided care for 12 abandoned, abused or HIV affected children under the loving guidance of two foster mothers. Our passion to improve their lives and attain better education continues to drive our fundraising goals. 

In these uncertain times of Covid-19 it has become tougher, but by the grace of God, we hope to be able to continue with the support of our donors.

By way of my birthday celebrations, we’re offering copies of the beautiful watercolour scenes painted by artist Suzette Duby from past calendars –

which may be purchased as e-copies in A4 size for R250 each.

We would like to continue offering further scenes through the year depending on popularity.

Banking details as follows:

Standard Bank: Branch Code 036009;  Account Number 271907185;  Swift Code: SBZAZAJJ

Please provide your name and email information and reference your name on the funds transfer so that we can send you a high resolution copy for print.  South Africans can request a tax certificate against donations.

With best wishes,


M.d Sautoy email address:  peteandme@mweb.co.za

Holiday Camp

Always a fun event, the Fresh Air camp in Simon’s Town. The children meet new friends and experience the sea. Hard are the ‘good byes’ after a good time together.

“Top of the Class”

We’re appealing for support in raising the funds to cover the 2019 school fees required for our 12 children.

Although there are some government grants available, they are not easily accessed and therefore we have to fund our childrens’ education totally through donations to our Trust.

In order to give our children, the best advantage in life and place them in the better schools where they can grow to be fully integrated into society, we have to pay full school fees.

Over the years school fees have vastly increased in cost, for example, an average cost per year for one child is;

  • R22,000.00               £1,200.00                        €1,350.00                        $1,540.00

 Today, we are proud to say that we have 11 previously abused and abandoned children, who are now rehabilitated and going to 7 different main stream schools, fully supported by a team of remedial teachers, home foster mothers and outside occupational therapists.

This has been a tremendous challenge since the Trust was established in 2009 and it is wonderful to see the transformation of these once fearful and shy children, some of whom at age 7-8 years old, had never attended school or pre-primary classes, now, so full of confidence and improved in school performance.

Your support is urgently required as we are 100% reliant on donations;

Easy transfers are possible by EFT:

A/c: St Francis Outreach Trust

Standard Bank SA, Ltd.


Branch Number : 036009

Account Number: 271 907 185


Please, ask us for a tax certificate!

In South Africa all financial contributions to the St Francis Outreach Trust are tax deductible.

Read More………………

By Monika Du Sautoy……

The South African government is by law to exempt children from under-privileged back grounds from paying school fees.  However, the sad truth is that there is a lack of access to an equitable schooling system. The better schools, which are subsidized through parents paying full fees, receive limited reimbursement from the government for fee-exempted students.  Coupled with a lack of capacity, the registrars are quick to point out that quotas are filled when it comes to admitting needy applicants.

To get them registered in fully functioning schools we are having to pay full school fees for most of the children. This amount has steadily increased over the years and does not include uniforms, books, sport outfits and extra-curricular events. (For many of us with overseas backgrounds, it is difficult to accept – especially myself having received – many years ago, a free education!)

Our Trust Funds are depleting at a scary rate!

In 2009 when we started the trust, we had one goal in mind – to give abandonedand abused African children a chance to live in a safe home under the loving care of a foster mother.

The importance of their Education only became an issue much later, when we realized that not every child was able to comprehend what was taught in school and that the quality of teaching in the township schools left a lot to be desired. We concluded that without proper education we were failing in our objectives in fulfilling the children’s future potential.  Not just equipping them with the right skills, we even dared to imagine that with perseverance they could achieve academic excellence!

So gradually over 18 months, we moved the children to good primary schools and to English medium pre-primary facilities.  The result was that the pre-primary kids adapted well, but the older students encountered tremendous challenges and some even had to repeat classes.

At this stage we found it necessary to employ a remedial teacher to assist the children wit hhomework and extra remedial lessons. As it was not possible to accommodate 11 children in the space available, we added an extension to the first foster home and created a dedicated classroom.

Today, our 11 children after being assessed by an educational Psychologist, (some pro bono) have been placed in 7 different schools according to their academic ability.  The funds for a school van were generously donated by an overseas trust.

It is wonderful to see the transformation of these once fearful and shy children, some of whom at age 7-8 years old, had never attended school or pre-primary classes, now so full of confidence and improved in school performance. Behavioral problems have diminished, even if the progress report does not show an immense improvement in academic subjects.

Considering the miserable and appalling circumstances these children came from, any progress is celebrated and gratefully appreciated.  They have found a new family in the ‘Homes to Grow’, love their mom and are comfortable with their “brothers and sisters”.

It would be an immense failing on our part if it comes down to having to return these children to the overcrowded, inadequate township schools ….  and here is where I ask for your support.

Presently the exchange rate on overseas currency works strongly against the weak SA Rand!

Would coverage of one child’s annual school fees be possible for some of you?  or half the

Amount? – –   or maybe even coverage for two children?

The 2019 Calendar is for sale

Another edition of the yearly calendar is ready in the shops.  The beautiful water colour scenes are a credit to the artist Suzette Duby’s skills in rendering the Cape at it’s finest.  The recipes and quotes add to the ‘flavour’ of the region.  As in the past the calendars are a well sought after item and make lovely Christmas presents especially for those living overseas.
The following venues have copies for sale:
Pepper Tree – Imhoff Farm 072 440 3186
St Margaret’s Church Fishhoek 021 782 2323
Wordsworth – Sunvalley  Mall (021)785 5301
Simon’s Town Pharmacy (021) 786 2133
Reader’s Warehouse – Tokai (021) 701 0632
Hillcrest Berry Farm, Pniel- Stellenbosch 021 885 1629
Harry Goeman’s  Garden Centre – Kommetjie Road (021) 785 3201

For further information contact Monika – (021) 786 3331 or 074 915 7747
Or Uwe – (021)788 2586  or 072 631 2478

Cotopaxi: At the Summit (Part III)

Nicole continues to describe the challenges when they reach the summit in triumph and then trauma comes unannounced …..

“Diego had predicted it would take us 8 hours to summit, we had not predicted the howling winds. The temperature was -15C, when we stopped to drink or rest we would start shaking from the cold. We were wearing five layers of thermal clothing; we just couldn’t stop to rest. By now we were in thick clouds and rime frost had completely covered us, my black gloves were white, my hardshell jacket was stiff from ice. Marelise complained that she had something in her right eye, we told her it was the ice in her eyelashes, the wind made it hard to communicate, the altitude made us slow to think.

The lights of the rope party ahead of us appear from between the seracs and would give us an indication of how far we still had to go.  When Diego said we only had another 15 minutes to the summit it was hard to believe, it had only taken us six and a half hours. The last 15minutes was only around 10 meters in altitude gain but was so steep we had to use our hands to pull ourselves up and we were reduced to a crawling pace.

We summited, I was proud, I was exhausted and I wanted to cry from relief. The spectacular views I had hoped for were obscured by the whiteout conditions, we couldn’t see into the volcanic crater but we could smell the sulphur. The clouds had lightened so we knew it was now daylight but we didn’t get to see the sun rising from the curve of the earth.  We took a few photos and then turned around to escape the cold.

Covered in rime frost

At the summit, (5897m) covered in rime frost.

I felt the rope tighten on my harness and turned around to see Marelise had slipped, she got up and we walked a few more steps. Marelise slipped again, she was off the path. Diego shouted at her to stay on the path, above the wind I heard her say “I can’t see the path”.  We got to a safer part where we could stand next to each other and I looked at Marelise, her eyes were cloudy/milky.

She had completely lost vision in her right eye and could make out the blurred shape of my red jacket with her left eye, she couldn’t see her feet and she couldn’t follow the trail.  I couldn’t think properly. I have read up extensively on altitude medicine, this doesn’t make sense to me. She is clearly lucid so can’t have high altitude cerebral oedema (HACE), has she had a retinal haemorrhage, she has a family history of glaucoma, could it be that?  Diego is calm, he says we need to descend quickly, the altitude is the problem. He shortens the rope between himself and Marelise and uses it to guide her down.   Remember all the crevasses and narrow ledges we passed on the way up, we now have to go back over them, this time with Marelise blind. I have never been so scared in my life, Marelise is remarkably calm. We know panic is not going to help, we just have to get down.  I trip and my crampon comes loose, Diego tells us to concentrate, we have to get down the glacier fast but safely.

Eventually the wind drops and the sun starts to appear, the views are like nothing I have seen before, seracs the size of houses with icicles hanging off them, it is spectacular. I can’t think of taking pictures, it seems wrong when Marelise can’t see anything.  We stop to drink the last of our mostly frozen water, we are passed the dangerous sections; Diego takes a few photos with his phone.


Three hours later we make it back to the refuge, we quickly pack up our sleeping backs and take the scree slope down to the car. We drive back to Quito where we go straight to an eye hospital, this is a stunning modern private facility. An optical coherence tomography (OCT) scan shows that Marelise has severe corneal oedema, a reversible condition caused by the low oxygen and freezing conditions (altitude blindness). She gets drops to put in her eyes every few hours. Her vision is completely restored 3 days later.

Mountaineering has fascinated me for years and I am very fortunate to be in a position to travel and experience it.  I know that summiting a mountain has no practical value and as we learnt, things can go wrong.  In spite of the altitude blindness, the poor conditions and how physically exhausting it was, I still can’t stop thinking about climbing more mountains.

This adventure taught us that even if you take small steps you will eventually get to the top, as long as you keep going. Thank you to everyone who donated to the Homes to Grow fund, your efforts have given some very special children a chance to reach the top too. May we all keep building towards their futures, one step at a time. Vamos!”

Cotopaxi: The Ascent (Part II)

Nicole continues the account, describing the difficult conditions and the all pervasive altitude….

“Cotopaxi is a popular tourist destination with many day visitors hiking up to the José F. Ribas Refuge at an altitude of 4800m (many of them showing signs of AMS). Fortunately a road takes you up to a parking lot at 4600m, this makes for only an hour hike up to the refuge. Only an hour but our very heavy packs and the thin air made it tough. The refuge is a newly renovated double story building, Diego had organised us the smaller dorm room which slept six, and this was our room for the next 2 nights.  We had some tea and then sorted out our gear for our first day of glacier training.

Crampons, double plastic boots and ice axes were completely foreign to us two South Africans who had never seen a glacier before now. So two days of training were needed prior to us attempting the summit.  Diego patiently taught us the different techniques of climbing in crampons, not stabbing oneself in the leg or cutting the rope with the spikes is important to try get right. Equally important is learning how to stop yourself sliding off the glacier should you fall, for this we endlessly practiced the technique of self-arresting with our ice axes.

Glacier training

By now our long acclimatisation process was paying off, neither of us had headaches, we were not short of breath, our appetites were reasonable and that night we slept well.  Sunday morning we woke up and the first of that nights successful summit parties started returning to the refuge around mid-morning. All of them kept telling us that it is just so hard, the exhaustion on their faces showed it. Another round of glacier training then we had an early dinner before getting into bed at 7pm. Our alarms were set for 23h00 but none of us slept, excitement nerves and a howling wind kept us awake.

Midnight is our planned start time, we need to summit and be off the glacier by midmorning, as the sun warms up the glacier the risk of rock falls and avalanches increases.  We get out of our warm sleeping bags, finish getting dressed (we sleep in most of our clothes anyway due to the cold) a quick cup of tea and we fill our thermos flasks with boiling water.  Stepping out of the refuge the freezing wind takes our breath away; we quickly pull our Buffs up over our mouths and noses.

The glaciated ice cap of Cotopaxi used to reach all the way down to the refuge, it now takes us an hour to hike up to the glacier before we need to put on our crampons and take out our ice axes. Global warming has caused the ice cap to recede by 40% in the last 25 years, I find that terrifying.

The next six and a half hours are the most brutally difficult thing I have ever done. I thought I was fit and knew what to expect but I was so wrong. The steepness of the glacier, walking up it awkwardly and sideways in crampons, made our legs burn within minutes.  The lack of oxygen made us slow, my mantra was “ice axe, step, step, breath”.   Our headlamps illuminated a small area in front of us, we concentrated on just putting one foot in front of the other, carefully, don’t slip. Suddenly the ice would just open up next to, or in front of you, when we would come to a crevasse. These deep black holes were intimidating but we knew when must just concentrate and not slip “ice axe, step, step, breathe”.  Edging along a narrow ledge, the steepness of slope was terrifying; the ice just disappeared into blackness next to our feet. If one of us slipped we would drag the two others with us, only our ice axes would have a chance of stopping us.  It was scary but we were calm, probably because of the lack of oxygen making us a bit mentally slow.

Diego had predicted it would take us 8 hours to summit, we had not predicted the howling winds. The temperature was -15C, when we stopped to drink or rest we would start shaking from the cold. We were wearing five layers of thermal clothing; we just couldn’t stop to rest. By now we were in thick clouds and rime frost had completely covered us, my black gloves were white, my hardshell jacket was stiff from ice. Marelise complained that she had something in her right eye, we told her it was the ice in her eyelashes, the wind made it hard to communicate, the altitude made us slow to think.”

Continued/……………………………………………….  Part III

Ecuador: Cotopaxi Trip Report (Part I)

In early February we introduced readers to the two intrepid women, Nicole Morse and Marelise Bardenhorst whose goal was to climb high mountains in Ecuador and raise funds for the “Homes to Grow” project.  They have since returned and this is the extraordinary account of their experience: it is a story of grit, determination and courage – for the terrain was challenging and there was drama up there.

High Drama On High Mountains – Part I

By Nicole Morse

“Three continents in 48 hrs was rather hectic but that is what it took to get us to Ecuador, a tiny country on the west coast of South America.  It may be a tiny country but it has some really big mountains.Our objective was Volcan Cotopaxi, one of the world’s highest active volcanoes. So active that it was closed for climbing up until October last year.

At a height of 5897meters above sea level the oxygen concentration at the Cotopaxi summit is 50% of we breathe at sea level, so acclimatisation was going to be key to our summit bid.  Just landing in Quito, Ecuador’s capital city, can be a breathless experience as it is at an altitude of 2800 meters.  It is the second highest capital city in the world and is surrounded by spectacular mountains. In Quito we were met by Diego, who was to be our mountain guide for the next week. Diego has more than 25 years’ experience as a mountain guide and this kept us safe when things went wrong.

Our first acclimatisation hike was the extinct volcano of Pasochoa. An easy trek through farmlands with a bit of a steep scramble to the summit took us to an altitude of 4200m, the highest we had ever been. On this hike, Diego taught us the valuable technique of taking it slow in the high mountains. Slowly, or “lento”in Spanish is a word we would hear often that week.  Though Diego was happy to politely but urgently give us a“vamos”(lets go!) too if we were eating our snacks a bit too leisurely at rest-stops.

Raining on Pasochoa

The following day we climbed Rucu Pichincha an active volcano that dominates the Quito landscape. It last erupted in 1999 and covered Quito in ash. A slightly exposed rock scramble got our heart rates up as we reached the summit at 4696 meters.  The descent was fun with a long scree slope (loose sand and rocks which accumulate from rock falls) allowing us to “ski down” in our hiking boots.

Descending the scree slope of Rucu Pichincha

Next up was Iliniza Norte, this was a 2 day hike with a night in the refuge (mountain hut) to allow us time to acclimatise.  We had a beautiful hike though the nature reserve with the 2 dark rocky peaks of Iliniza North and South occasionally breaking through the clouds and reminding us of what was still to come. When we arrived at the refuge in the late afternoon the temperature started to drop and our down jackets and -18 C sleeping bags were much appreciated. We were in the refuge with another climbing party of New Zealanders and dinner was festive with everyone talking about their mountaineering experiences.  That night the effects of acute mountain sickness (AMS)set in and the altitude of 4700 meters gave me a splitting headache that made sleep impossible.  When sunrise finally arrived we realised that our planned summit bid was not going to happen. Heavy overnight snowfall now covered the once rocky summit and Diego felt that conditions were too dangerous to continue.  Disappointed we packed up and descended back to the car but our minds were already thinking of Cotopaxi.”

The two peaks of Iliniza South and North

Waking up to a blanket of snow on Iliniza.

Continued/………………  Part II


Nicole and Marelise’s Ecuador Challenge


Through the years we’ve been very appreciative in the way the “Homes To Grow” project has attracted support through many different sectors and we’re delighted now to introduce two  intrepid adventurers, Nicole Morse and her partner Marelise Bardenhorst who are on a quest to scale the high mountains in Ecuador.  Their trip is self-funded and they have kindly offered to champion our fundraising efforts in support of the “Homes to Grow” project.

Of all the requirements to ensure the children’s needs are covered,  the cost of their education is the most pressing.   We are aiming to raise R1.25 million through the long term and we have a very long way to go!  The funds being raised through Nicole and Marelise’s endeavours are a promising start to this year’s  target goal of R300,000 which will cover just the school fees.

Their departure is set for February 16 and they will spend their first days in Quito acclimatising to the altitude.  The plan is to ease into the experience by hiking trails on the lesser mountains  – Pasochoa (4200 m) Pichincha (4696 m), IlinazaNorte (5126 m) and then try to summit Cotopaxi (5,897 m).  Prior to this undertaking  they will undergo technical training on the glacier to hone ice-climbing techniques using crampons and ice axes.  If all goes well they will attempt to reach the summit by starting the climb at midnight on the seventh day.  This will give them time to descend before the  sun warms the glacier making it unstable by possibly causing avalanches or ice and rock falls.   Additional challenges for the climbers could be adverse weather and altitude sickness.  Tackling this rugged and austere terrain is not for the feint hearted!

Mt Cotopaxi:  Courtesy of Wikipedia

A steely determination shows through Nicole’s nonchalance  when asked about the motivation for the adventure.  She explains that it’s the challenge of wanting to climb big mountains and to experience glaciers that appeals as well as the quest for pushing oneself to the limit.

After they have achieved these initial goals and if time permits, they may even consider Mt Chimboraso, which is Ecuador’s highest mountain at an altitude of 6268 m.   It has the added allure of being the tallest mountain in the world  – that is not by elevation above sea level, but through its location along the equatorial bulge, making it’s summit the farthest point on the Earth’s surface from the Earth’s center.

The months of preparation and physical training is paying off.  Nicole’s latest dash up Platteklip Gorge (Table Mountain) took an hour and six minutes and a rapid forty-eight minutes to come back down.  While Marelise is presently studying in Amsterdam for a PhD in exercise science her training has involved a lot of gym work.

Their goals and aspirations are an inspiration to our young children and we’ll be eagerly following their experiences.  What a way to learn about the geography of the lofty mountains of the Andes, right there on the equator clad in snow and juxtaposed between glaciers and volcanoes!