Copyright 2018 - Admin

Helen Keller personally visited South Africa in 1951 and when in Cape Town, recognised the need to build a hostel for 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.’’  2018 marks our 60th anniversary in aged care. 

Within a few years additional accommodation was required and in 1960 a two-storey annex was added to the original building, accommodating 40 residents, and in 1980, further renovations took place to accommodate 44 residents.

In 1992 the Helen Keller Hostel became independent of the Civilian Blind Society, and in 1993 it acquired an adjoining area of land from the Pinelands Municipality. 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 in 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 their 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 it 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 82 people. The sick bay in the Hostel was converted into en suite rooms (Home), and the top floor of the Garden Cities building was used as frail care (Care Centre), both for persons transferring from the Home, Cottages and 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, comprising former staff accommodation, the craft room and a micro-bus garage, was converted into five en suite rooms.

During 2009 & 2010, 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 Low Vision Resource Centre and the 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 with 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 2012, including a new management office and an extension of 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 accommodate a further eight new residents.  

Since 1998, Elspeth Campbell and Bev Richardson have enlarged and expanded our Low Vision community out-reach services, joined by Claire Dudley in 2014. It provides information, advice, a wide range of reading aids and assistive devices to the sight-impaired in the community through individual assessments, or through a network of 8 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 our Low Vision 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, 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 dependent 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 proudly boast 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.’