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School hostel officially opened

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The building was refurbished by the school to serve at its hostel and has now been named after the Oppenheimer family

WHILE the Oppenheimer family might have pulled out of Kimberley when the city’s diamond mines were sold and the De Beers company taken over by Anglo American, “the city and the family remain inextricably joined together”.

This is according to former De Beers chairperson Nicky Oppenheimer, a South African billionaire businessman and philanthropist, who was speaking at the official opening of the St Patrick’s CBC hostel, formerly Nazareth House, yesterday.

The building was refurbished by the school to serve at its hostel and has now been named after the Oppenheimer family.

Speaking at the ceremony, Oppenheimer, who was accompanied by his wife, Strilli, said that he believed that if you are successful in life, “and we were lucky enough to be successful, it requires you to give back”.

Oppenheimer pointed out that Kimberley had always been important to the family. “In a political sense, it is where we vote. Our roots are here.”

He added that when he was approached to help, it was a good opportunity to put something back into Kimberley and its surrounding areas.

“Education is so important. The quality of its schools and the Sol Plaatje University is what gives the region and the city life, energy and sustainability and these have to be supported. Kimbelrey, and the Northern Cape, with Kimbelrey as the shining light, has an important future because of the schools and the university. It is a great pleasure to contribute something towards this.”

Yesterday’s opening ceremony also saw a short history of the hostel related by local historian Steve Lundestedt, who told the audience that at first the building was Nazareth House, a home for the elderly and homeless children and was run by nuns.

When finances ran out, CBC took over the building and it is now being used as a hostel for boarders at the school as well as class rooms.

The executive principal, Jacques Tredoux, gave an insight into the developments that have taken place at the school as well as the plans for the future.

The hostel started out in 2016 with only four boarders and today there are 44.

Barry Smith, the chairman of the development trust of the school, thanked the Oppenheimers for their contribution, both to Kimberley and the school.

Smith related how he, together with past pupil Mike Doherty, another trustee and Tredoux knocked on Nicky Oppenheimer’s office door and showed him a published brochure of how they wanted to develop the school.

“You were the first person to receive the brochure and the first to respond – moved, no doubt, not by a commitment to improve St Patrick’s, per se, but rather to improve the quality of relatively affordable and excellent education available to the citizens of Kimberley and surrounding areas,” Smith said.

“We mention your prompt response and generous donation in all our appeals to our alumni, who I regret, with few exceptions, have short arms and long pockets. I, however, thank you and your family for this.”

Nazareth House was originally established in 1864 in Hammersmith, London by Mother St Basil, to take care of the homeless, those who had no other place of refuge.

Five sisters arrived in Cape Town on October 11, 1888 and came straight to Kimberley to establish a Nazareth House on the diggings.

Half an acre of land was given by the London and South African Exploration Company and construction started on the building.

The first room to be completed was fitted as a dormitory and the second room to be completed became the chapel. The altar and other essentials needed for Holy Mass were brought from England.

On October 26 the house was blessed by Reverend R O’Reilly and the first residents arrived on November 1, 1888.

Initially there was no kitchen and food was cooked on an open fire. The sisters later had a “Dutch oven” and “bake house” built so that they could make their own bread and thus save money.

The house soon became too small and in 1892 construction began on the left wing of the main building. Within one year after the opening of this building, there were 43 children living at Nazareth House and by the end of 1895, there were 130.

The construction on the new chapel began in 1894 with a message from Bishop Gaughren placed in a bottle under the cornerstone, the chapel being dedicated on October 5, 1895.

During the Siege of Kimberley, Nazareth House raised the ambulance flag in the hope that it may escape shelling. It did not, however. Although nobody was injured, the community room was hit by shrapnel.

During the war, the sick and wounded were nursed at Nazareth House.

In 1918 the Spanish flu epidemic killed nearly 5 000 people in Kimberley and although Nazareth House was affected, they suffered no deaths.

Nazareth House was known through the years as a home for the aged, poor, incurable and orphan children. The children’s section of the home was closed in approximately 1976 and later served only as a home for the aged.

Nazareth House closed its doors in December 2001 and was turned into a boarding facility by St Patrick’s CBC. – Staff Reporter