Merle Brown (Board Member of the Mercury Hibberdene Childrens Home) Charmaine Barnwell (Mercury Hibberdene Childrens Home House Mother) and Gail Else (Board member of (MHCH) toast the Mercury Wine Week) all proceeds of the Mercury Wine Week go to the the Mercury Hibberdene Childrens Home. Pic TerryHaywood Photography
Merle Brown (Board Member of the Mercury Hibberdene Childrens Home) Charmaine Barnwell (Mercury Hibberdene Childrens Home House Mother) and Gail Else (Board member of (MHCH) toast the Mercury Wine Week) all proceeds of the Mercury Wine Week go to the the Mercury Hibberdene Childrens Home.
Pic TerryHaywood Photography

 

THE Mercury Hibberdene Children’s Holiday Home has been a haven for young minds since 1935, making a difference in the lives of orphaned, poor and underprivileged children by providing them with a free holiday they will remember their whole lives.
Yet, bringing that level of joy into someone’s life comes with costs and in times of escalating prices and a weak economy, making every cent work for its worth is a common reality. It is this tenet that lies behind the excitement house mother and home administrator Charmaine Barnwell expresses when talking about the R200000 investment made into developing a hydroponic farm and 30x8m tunnel and raising egg-laying hens to subsidise the home’s food bills.
Barnwell says the new sustainable vegetable garden and hydroponic tunnels officially open in August and will provide onions, potatoes, butternut, tomatoes, lettuce, cucumber, cabbage and dhania for the home, while the chickens lay around 30 eggs daily.
The home has also planted banana, litchi and pear trees as well as pineapples to provide the essential fruit component growing children require in their daily diet. However, Barnwell acknowledges these are part of the medium-term plan as bearing fruit will take several years.

Annually 1000 children from impoverished communities across KwaZulu-Natal are hosted to a free holiday with another 1000 experiencing the facility as day visitors. Yet, Barnwell’s ambitious vision is to double the number of children passing through the front door to benefit from a holiday to remember.
“The camps, typically hosting children between ages seven and 13 years, are expressly designed to be an abundance – of food, entertainment and education while having fun – so these children can have an insight into a life beyond poverty and deprivation. We want to show them they do not have to stay in their current circumstances as there are opportunities to build better lives for themselves,” she says.
Emotionally difficult for her is watching the children take photographs of their bed – because it is often the first time they have slept in a bed alone, not sharing with several other siblings or cousins.
“I have experienced former campers return to the home – some more than 50 years after their holiday – and still know in which bed they slept and indicate their lives were changed because of the opportunities they experienced here. I want to make that a reality for everyone,” Barnwell says.
She says the camps teach the children life lessons they take away to improve their own circumstances. These include washing their hands before eating, an attitude of gratitude and appreciating what happens in life and keeping their environment tidy as a sign of respect.

Balancing out the free holidays is the fund-raising secured from hiring out the venue to church and school groups for nominal daily fees; events like the recent annual Mercury Sprint horse race and patronage to The Mercury Wine Week. Each year a proportion of the funds raised from ticket sales to the annual wine extravaganza is earmarked for The Mercury Hibberdene Children’s Holiday Home – meaning members of the public can raise funds for a worthy cause merely because they enjoyed an evening of wine education and entertainment.

Tickets for this year’s Mercury Wine Week, being held at Greyville Convention Centre on August 24-26, are R120 per person via iTickets (opening July 25) or R140 at the door on the evening. Show times are Wednesday to Friday 5:30 to 8:30pm.

Nicola Jenvey