‘Angel’ dies in orphanage fire

By admin
19 February 2010

arel de Haas will never forget his predawn stop to fill his car with diesel on his way to work at Ingogo in KZN. A man rushed up to say a house on a smallholding on the other side of the road was on fire.

It was a place of safety called Hope in Christ Mission. By the time Karel (29) got there flames had engulfed much of the building. A terrified young woman ran by carrying her baby and above the crackle of flames he could hear children screaming.

Karel tried to douse the flames with a hose attached to a tank brought by another helper. Behind a bathroom window a terrified little girl screamed for help. He told her to fill the bath and stand in it but she ran to another room.

He’s haunted by her cries, knowing now that 11 people, among them several children, died in the fire. Among the victims was former teacher Sarah Holland (57). Known as Granny, or Gogo, she used her pension six years ago to found the mission and opened it to anyone in need.

“She made a new person of me,” Anne Paul (30) says. She’s the woman Karel saw carrying her four-week-old baby, Hoisen. Anne had lived with Sarah for four months. “I was mixed up with the wrong people and I was a bad person but she made me a good person,” she says.

“My mom told us God had called her,” says Sarah’s daughter, Diane Pietersen. “She left her beautiful house just like that and came to Ingogo to open the children’s home.”

Sarah’s house in Roodepoort had always been filled with kids - mostly children of neighbourhood domestic workers. “She never turned away the women who asked if she’d look after their children, especially if they were abused or single parents.

“Sometimes people left their kids there for weeks, even months, but she was happy to look after them and never asked for money. She was a wonderful person.”

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