Lindiwe Khoza never stops praying. Be it for the new children who arrive or the older ones who leave. She holds on tight to the belief that all things work together for good. And that every child who passes through their doors at the Langkloof Orphanage Scheme, will go on to make something of themselves.
Based at Langkloof settlement in the Northern Drakensberg, the establishment has long stood as a haven for AIDS orphans and vulnerable children. As a former teacher and current Supervisor, Lindiwe and her team provide the daily basics these children need to thrive: food, shelter, safety, and love.
"Here at Langkloof, we look after many children from as young five years old to just a few months who mostly come to us from the local village," she explains. "We love them like our own and try our best to make them smile and not feel alone even when hardship is all they have known."
From its humble beginnings in 2001 as a safe refuge for 50 AIDS orphans, Langkloof has grown to incorporate a fully-equipped kitchen, electricity, running water, flushing toilets, a creche, and a primary school.
"We are always grateful for the support we continue to receive," Lindiwe explains. "Without it, we would not be able to help vulnerable children and make a difference in their lives. Many go on to live here in the village, find employment and have families of their own."
The primary benefactor responsible for the success of Langkloof over the years is Little Switzerland Resort, located just a few kilometres away along the R74. Under the current leadership of General Manager, Gerhard van Zyl, the resort's involvement extends to paying half the wages for Lindiwe and her staff, covering daily operating costs, and supplying twice-daily meals for up to 250 school children.
"A lot of people don't know about our work at Langkloof," says Gerhard. "There was no obligation for us to keep it running after inheriting the property.”
Dream Hotels & Resorts opted to continue operating the orphanage by request from the previous owners as doing so also falls in line with their company values and vision: to co-create memorable travel experiences which connect people for a brighter future.
Over the last three and a half years, Gerhard and his team have encouraged donations from their local suppliers, proving that there is power in community action. Resort guests can show their direct support via Play it Forward, an initiative calling for unused toys, books, sports equipment, and school stationery.
"It has been quite something to see everyone come together to assist and support Langkloof over the years," he explains. "We've had some phenomenal responses to our blanket and winter clothing drives. Then, of course, there are our annual Christmas parties where we prepare all sorts of treats and gifts for the little ones."
"Between losing the orphanage roof last year to strong winds and the chaos of Covid, we have certainly had no shortage of challenges in this seemingly quiet corner of the world," says Gerhard. "Between 2012 to 2014, the road leading to the property was also closed, and sadly many people still don't realize we have reopened."
Despite many obstacles, Little Switzerland continues to welcome guests from across the country (98% of their business is local). The property also plays an important economic role in the surrounding Bergville community, employing 75 fixed staff and 15 on a contractual basis.
In a concerted effort to become more sustainable, Little Switzerland has also established an impressive hydroponic system, operated by Justin Liebenberg, the property's Maintenance Manager.
"We grow a range of herbs and vegetables; lettuce, spinach, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, you name it. We use the produce for our guests' meals, but it also sustains the Langkloof school and orphanage," Gerhard explains.
Being that Little Switzerland occupies a remote location in the Northern Drakensberg (the nearest town is 40km away), it simply made sense to become self-reliant and harvest their own fresh produce year-round.
"Even though it can be costly, we love the self-sustaining element of it. But also that we can share out what we cultivate with our community. We tried establishing a system at Langkloof a few years back, but unfortunately, it was stolen, so we rather keep it closer to home and deliver fresh veggies there twice a week."
Their efforts have come to embody the true spirit of hospitality, further proving that even the smallest gestures of kindness can make all the difference to those who need it most. "No child should ever not have enough to eat or feel what it's like not to know where your next meal is coming from," he says. "In truth, we always wish that we could do more."
As for the future of Little Switzerland? The team hopes to complete a full renovation of the self-catering units by mid to end-2023, we are also looking at a full refurbishment of the restaurant and buffet area to allow for live cooking.
"The more we can improve our offering, and inspire travellers to visit, the more support we can provide for the kids at Langkloof," Gerhard explains.
"We've experienced periods of unshakeable sense of hopelessness throughout the pandemic, but what's most important for us is to support our community and do what we can to make the world just a little better," he concludes.
Contact Little Switzerland directly on +27364382500 to book your next stay in the Berg — and sleep easy with the knowledge that your local holiday choice is changing lives.