Copyright 2019 - Admin

When Helen Keller personally visited South Africa in 1951, and whilst in Cape Town, she recognised the need for a hostel to accommodate blind working ladies. Her appeal led to our present site being acquired from the City Council, and the Hostel's foundation stone was laid in 1957. Helen sent the following personal message:

"Heartfelt greetings to the Helen Keller Hostel. Long may it serve as a home of cheer and high accomplishment. Affectionately, Helen Keller.’’  

Within a few years, additional accommodation was required. In 1960, a two-storey annex was added to the original building to accommodate forty residents, and in 1980, further additions for forty-four residents.

The Hostel became independent of the Civilian Blind Society in 1992, and acquired an adjoining area of land from the Pinelands Municipality the following year. This enabled Mr & Mrs Arthur Abbott to fulfil their dream of providing accommodation for both blind men and women, and so the Cottages were designed for independent living, completed during 1995. The Garden Cities Clinic was opened in September, a purpose-built frail care unit. These developments were made possible largely thanks to substantial financial assistance from Garden Cities, which then marked its 75th anniversary.

In 1996 the Hostel adopted a new Constitution, whereby its admission criteria was amended to allow for persons over the age of 60 and retired folk, in addition to the blind and visually impaired. The word “Hostel” was dropped from the name and we became known as the Helen Keller Society. 

In 1999 the Board integrated the Clinic with the Hostel, and in 2000 the Helen Keller Home and Care Centre came into existence. The facility was re-registered to accommodate eighty two people. The sick bay in the Hostel was converted into en suite rooms (the Home), and the top floor of the Garden Cities building was used as frail care (the Care Centre), both for persons transferring from the Home, the Cottages and from within the community. Financial assistance was donated by the D.G. Murray Trust.

In 2006, the ground floor of the annex at the rear of the Home, which comprised former staff accommodation, a craft room and a garage, was converted into five en suite rooms, known as the Syd Askew Suites. During 2009, thanks to a generous donation from the late Mrs Jeanette Luttig (in memory of her late husband, Mr Syd Askew), and major funding from the Ridley Bequest, a new building was erected at the front of the property to house the administrative offices, the Michael Chadwick Low Vision Resource Centre and the Zerilda Droskie Activity Room. In the process, both the lounge, dining room and entrance areas of the Home were enlarged, making it more comfortable. The Syd Askew Suites were altered to seven en suite apartments including a communal lounge, dining room, a sun room and a garden known as the "Jeanette Luttig Peace Garden" in memory of her generosity. 

Eight new en suites were built in the Home during 2014, including a new management office and an extension to the Board room. During 2018, we upgraded the Home's bathrooms, built a porte cochere outside our reception area, and added a new wing to our Care Centre annex, where we can now accommodate a further eight new residents. We are now re-registered to accommodate up to a hundred and forty residents. The Society was also priviledged to celebrate its 60th anniversary in aged care in 2018.

Low Vision Community Services

Since 1998, Elspeth Campbell and Bev Richardson have enlarged and expanded our Low Vision Community Services out-reach, joined by Claire Dudley in 2014. These services provide information, advice, a wide range of reading aids and assistive devices for the sight-impaired in the community through individual assessments, consultations, or through a network of eight support groups at various venues throughout greater Cape Town, and at our resource centre. 

January 2007 saw the opening of our new Low Vision unit and the commencement of these services at Groote Schuur Hospital's Eye Clinic, in January 2008 the opening of a similar service at Tygerberg Hospital, early 2016 at Eersterivier Hospital and late 2017, at the Athlone School for the Blind. Looking to the future, the Board sees our community services as ever expanding and on-going.

The Society is registered as a Non-Profit Organisation and is dependant upon the generosity of both individuals and the public sector for financial support. It has been continually vigilant to the changing needs of the community it serves, and has developed and expanded its services accordingly over the years.

The Society has built up a large band of loyal volunteers who contribute greatly to uplift the lives of our residents, in a multiplicity of ways. Today, we are proud to have the services of 180 volunteers from within the community, including some staff members and residents, who assist us so graciously. Both the Society and the residents are indeed very grateful to them for their commitment, compassion and time.

The Society trusts that it lives up to the well-known motto of its mentor, Helen Keller, who said that no life is deeply lived unless it is dedicated to others.’