Fundraising, July 12, 2023, 9:05 a.m.

Hope blooms at Vergelegen wine estate


The unexpected sighting of an exquisite protea, known as the Empress, with large, bright pink blooms, has led to a fundraising initiative at Vergelegen wine estate in Somerset West.

Income from sales of these magnificent proteas is helping to support a nonprofit organisation that is changing lives in nearby Sir Lowry’s Pass village.

Residents of this small, poor community, about 60 km from Cape Town, struggle with many issues such as  lack of education, high unemployment, and inadequate housing and sanitation. Drug and alcohol abuse, gang membership, crime and teenage pregnancies are common. 

Fortunately, a nonprofit organisation named Village Collaboration (VC) has had a positive impact, and the flower-selling collaboration with Vergelegen will boost its efforts further.

VC director Cerné Couzis said she first spotted the magnificent Empress proteas at a social event in Stilbaai. Most of these blooms are exported, but on seeing the flowers, she was determined to source and sell them to raise funds for the VC. She located the protea farm near Riversdale, then contacted Sue Steenkamp, Vergelegen Hospitality Manager, who pledged her support. 

“Vergelegen is delighted to assist well-run initiatives to help  Sir Lowry’s Pass village,  as there is a clear need for more community resources. Many estate staff live in the village or have connections with its residents. Also, during the Covid-19 lockdown, Vergelegen’s chefs provided 100 meals daily for needy communities, including Sir Lowry’s Pass village.” 

Emery said that residents of Wedderwill, a country estate bordering Vergelegen, had supported child nutrition projects in Sir Lowry’s Pass village for 12 years through the Wedderwill Charitable Trust. The Covid-19 pandemic increased the need for assistance, so supporters expanded their initiatives through the VC. During lockdown the VC, in collaboration with many other charitable organisations, provided meals for up to 3000 people daily. Distribution was undertaken by netball team girls delivering the meals to elderly residents in their homes. 

Currently, five soup kitchens feed 600-700 people a day and deliver hot meals to 25 elderly residents. Two play schools offer a loving and inspiring place for children, plus a daily meal.

To date 24 adults have received three months of professional training in frail care by Procare Training Academy. This initiative is another collaboration hosted by VC, sponsored by SOS Africa. 

VC also partners with the Youth Employment Service, a collaborative effort between government, business and labour. Some 140 young people in Sir Lowry’s Pass village have received life-changing training and internships to date.

“People have become more caring of one another in the village, because they have had first-hand experience of the impact that VC has,” said Emery. “Youth who had limited exposure to workplace requirements have had their lives change completely since they took part in work training programmes.”

Vergelegen sells the Empress and other proteas at its Stables family restaurant and pop-up Nguni Café. The cost is R120-R180 per bunch of three to five proteas.  Vergelegen is the conduit for the sales, and all the proceeds go to VC.

“Beautiful Vergelegen estate is an absolute gem to showcase these flowers for us. We have discovered that people are happy to buy when they know it’s for a good cause,” said Couzis.