By Emily Purser

The story of a mother struggling to clothe and house her brood of adopted children has inspired an anonymous donation that will change the lives of an extraordinary family.

Maria Solomons's home in Mitchells Plain is a sanctuary for 14 children with troubled pasts, in addition to three of her own. Over the past 18 years, more than 400 children have passed through her house. Her home, which has become known locally as Solomons's Haven, is being extended to create more space for the large family.

Solomons's husband, Alec, a builder, has had to stop work as funds dwindled.

Solomons was named the Cape Times Woman of Worth in 2004. The resulting donations enable her to take the first steps in developing the house.

Solomons's story (Cape Times, September 4) has prompted an anonymous donor to come forward with the R457 000 needed to complete the renovations and help feed the family. The family gets through 10 loaves of bread and eight litres of milk a day, and rising food prices have been a great worry to them.

Solomons said that the donor had "just changed the whole picture now".

It was such gestures that gave her the strength to "never give up."

Overwhelmed by the generosity, she repeatedly hugged her family and thanked everybody involved.

Also present was fellow Woman of Worth, Carol van Wyk, awarded the honour in 2007 and a beneficiary of the same donor. Based in Hanover Park, she runs, among other things, a Kidz Club, which meets once a week to teach children life skills.

On receipt of her Woman of Worth award, Van Wyk received a donation from the same donor of R50 000, which she used to send the leaders of her Kidz Club to an educational camp.

Through the club, Van Wyk educates and empowers the children and the leaders, who are mostly young adults. The donor became involved with Solomons and Van Wyk with the hope of providing some immediate relief, as well as drawing attention to their plight so that "both remarkable women received the exposure, publicity and support they so badly need".

The donor has an "unwavering commitment" to assist those who so selflessly help others, and will remain in the lives of Solomons and Van Wyk.

Both added that while they were grateful for the donations, there was still more to be done.

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