Retired teacher Alan Staples, who has spent most of his life in education, continues to play a vital role in the educational development of children, even in his retirement.
The 69-year-old now spends his retirement driving fundraising for Hope Schools in Dawn, a suburb of East London.
The school is exclusively for children affected by or infected with HIV.
Hope Schools, situated on land donated by Johnson & Johnson, has 237 pupils.
The idea for Hope Schools was born in 2005 when the Sophumelela Centre decided to open a school for the children of patients receiving treatment at their HIV clinic.
Staples, a former Selborne College pupil, later taught at the school before being transferred to Treverton College in Mooi River, in KwaZulu-Natal.
After retiring after 35 years at the school, he decided to settle in East London.
“In September 2010 I got a request to attend a short meeting at Sophumelela Centre which had been running a clinic, school, dignity house and a work-for-all programme, which finds employment for those living with HIV.
“That was the start of my involvement with the centre and the school.”
Staples said although the school had a monthly fee of R430, children were served cooked meals three times a day and snacks in between.
They are also transported to and from school, with the five buses owned by the school.
Development officer at Sophumelela Centre, Leigh Bursey, nominated Staples as a local hero because of his commitment to the development of the children and the school.
“He is such a selfless man with a heart as big as the ocean. He cares for everyone around him, especially our children at Hope Schools.
“Alan has been the voluntary chairman of the Hope Schools Board for more than six years.
“His loyalty, personal sacrifices, passion and empathy for others is what makes Alan the honourable person he is today.
“He is our local hero and without him and his fundraising efforts, Hope Schools would be in a much less fortunate position today,” Bursey said.
Headmaster Nigel Raw said Staples was a visionary with big plans for the school.
“The school is all about instilling hope in children who come from disadvantaged communities, but we want to expose them to a variety of opportunities and to dream beyond where they are and what they see around them.
“Mr Staples is steering us towards accomplishing that with all that he is doing, organising funding for the school and inviting international volunteers to come and spend time at the school.”
Grade 7 teacher Norine Arends commended Staples for the vital role he was playing in East London’s community. “He is passionate and dedicated to taking the school to new heights, he brings a lot of experience and is playing an important role in the development of our children.”
Staples said although the school received no financial support from the government, “everything happening at the school and for the school was a team effort”.
More than R10-million has been invested by foreign investors from America and Australia to build the school to about 250 learners from Grade 00 to Grade 7.
Next year the first grade of high school will also be available, while an R80-million project is also on the cards to develop a high school once the funding has been raised.