26 July 2016
SHORTLY after 72-year-old Elizabeth Barrett put her life on the line and pulled 14 children out of her burning house, the only thing on her mind was that they were all safe.
The Cape Town grandmother was hailed a hero for her efforts in rescuing the children in her care. She could not save any belongings as flames gutted her Harrington Street house about three years ago, and at the time she had no idea how her house would be fixed.
But following the incident, Barrett’s house has been repaired and extended, and the household belongings replaced through the generosity of volunteers, private sponsorship and donations.
Barrett was overjoyed and said she was at a loss for words to describe how pleased she was.
“I can’t tell you what the reason was for them to do this. What they did to make this house this nice was something I never thought of. And then there was a hotel here in town that provided us with beds. Supermarkets have been assisting us with food. We have been receiving a lot of support from different quarters.
“This has made a big difference to our lives. Some of the children were taken from homeless parents. It’s going to change the children’s lives for the better. They sleep well and they are very happy ever since,” said Barrett.
“If a child can go to bed on a full stomach, they are happy. They grow so quick. Some of them do not want to leave and that makes me very happy. I love being surrounded by them. When they leave, it feels like part of me has been ripped off.”
Barrett said she became sad when homeless people came crying to her house for food, but get chased and harassed by law enforcement officials.
“How can I give these children back to their parents when they have got no home to go to. I can’t do that.
“It’s very sad what is going on. I help where I can. There is nothing I benefit from this. I am doing this out of love,” she said.
Alastair Rendall and Tony Dallas had volunteered to assist with the rebuilding of the house, while Barrett’s neighbour, Ashton Hayes, raised the sponsorship and donations, and managed the entire project of rebuilding Barrett’s house.
Dallas said: “She is a remarkable woman who selflessly gives of her time and energy to the lives of others. The fact that so many people have come together to ensure that her work can continue is enormously satisfying.”