Our History: A Timeline
In 1923, Rachel Swart was born without arms or legs in a small, rural community in the Bredasdorp District of South Africa. Far from medical assistance, she surpassed many people’s expectations and grew into a woman of indomitable spirit, determined to live life to its fullest.
In her twenties, Rachel had married and established herself as a homemaker and mother, when she caught the attention of Piet Beukes, the editor of an Afrikaans newspaper. Beukes published a human interest story about her, which reached British philanthropist Sir John Ellerman, who, retired, was living part-time in the Western Cape. Ellerman offered his assistance via Beukes to Rachel, and so began a friendship between the three that lasted until 1955, when Rachel died unexpectedly after the birth of her second child. Rachel’s death deeply affected Ellerman and, together with Beukes, he established a fund in her honour to help people with physical disabilities. The Rachel Swart Fund was officially registered as a welfare organisation in 1960.
Today, many years after the deaths of Sir John and Lady Ellerman, the Fund continues to benefit from an annual contribution from the John Ellerman Foundation in London, as well as support from a number of other trusts, foundations, corporate donors and caring individuals who share his compassion and vision.
The Fund has a remarkable record and is highly thought of in the health and disability sector. The small and able staff, as well as the Committee, are chosen for their dedication to the cause, and still follow the guidelines set out by Ellerman, himself.
For more information about supporting the Rachel Swart Fund, please see our donations page.