Heroes don’t always wear capes, come from the sky or are born after being exposed to radiation. Sometimes heroes exist in our very own neighbourhoods. This was the case when an ordinary Tamboerskloof resident helped rebuild a children’s home after it burnt to the ground two years ago.

It was just a few days before Christmas in December 2013 when the daily morning routine of Elizabeth Barrett, a 70-year-old grandmother, was abruptly halted by the smell of burning wires and smoke coming from one of the rooms in her house in Harrington Street in Cape Town.

The two-storey, Victorian-styled house was home to her, two adults and 14 children, some of whom were orphans she had taken in and sheltered.

Elizabeth, a hero in her own right, was preparing porridge when one of the children alerted her to the blaze coming from one of the rooms.

“There was a lot of smoke in the room. Then the fire came up straight to my face. I said to the children, ‘you must wake the others and we must run’, because the fire was too strong,” Elizabeth recalled the ordeal to a newspaper covering the story at the time.

With no time to grab any belongings, including her ID, Elizabeth escaped the house with the children before the flames started to grow. However, one child was still stuck in the house.

Braving the flames, Elizabeth ran back into the house to rescue the boy who was stuck under a bed. The Victorian house that was a beacon of hope and refuge, burnt down to the ground leaving the family to sleep in a warehouse next door.

When Tony Dallas, a resident of Tamboerskloof in Cape Town, discovered that this was Elizabeth’s fate he managed to gather support from his network to help the children of Harrington House.

Through generous donations, volunteers and charity, Tony and other partners managed to rebuild Elizabeth’s home fully equipped with beds, furniture and stove to feed the children.

“It has been a long journey over two and a half years; full of delays and periods of uncertainty but the house is now complete and in better shape than it ever was,” Tony said.

Some of the people who supported Harrington House are: Neighbour Ashton Hayes, Structural engineer Alten Hulme, Builders Warehouse, Group Five, Alastair Rendall of ARG Design, the Petousis family, Jacqui Williams of The Townhouse Hotel, Duo Marketing and Communication, and many others.

OurHood is proud of our active neighbours who go the extra mile to save their families and help eachother.

Do you have an inspiring story about an active neighbour you’d like us to feature? We’d love to know! Email us on [email protected].

Your friendly neighbours at OurHood

Connecting neighbours, strengthening communities.