Helderberg Hero Fights to Save Special Needs School from Closure

Helderberg Hero Fights to Save Special Needs School from Closure
Lize Marais with Milkwood Learning Academy students

Lize Marais, from the Helderberg region of the Western Cape, embodies determination and compassion as she strives to keep the doors of Milkwood Learning Academy and their beloved Toy Library open. This academy is a haven for children with special needs, including those with learning disabilities, autism, and Down syndrome.

With a crowdfunding campaign on BackaBuddy, Marais is rallying the community to secure the future of 18 students by the end of March 2024, facing an urgent financial crisis that threatens the academy’s existence.

A Sanctuary for Learning and Growth

Milkwood Learning Academy, nestled in the heart of the Helderberg region, is more than an educational institution; it’s a place where vulnerable children discover their potential in a nurturing and accepting environment. Founded by Marais seven years ago, the academy has become a critical resource for affordable, quality education tailored to children with intellectual disabilities. “It’s a place where they don’t feel rejected, they feel safe and loved,” Marais explains. Her commitment to these children is unwavering, driven by a vision of inclusivity and empowerment.

Marais shares poignant insights into the impact of Milkwood on its students: “Over the years I have seen so many success stories. Children come to us with very high anxiety levels. Some were rejected by society, others were enrolled in mainstream schools, and were subject to bullying from other children. Many of my children can’t speak a word or read a word when they join Milkwood. Later they learn to talk, play with others, and even read books.”

Pictured above: Lize Marais with Milkwood Learning Academy students

Crowdfunding on BackaBuddy

Despite the positive impact on its students, Milkwood’s financial sustainability is at risk. The school’s inclusive fee structure, designed to accommodate families of all economic backgrounds, has led to financial shortfalls. “Our goal is to enable children with special needs to live meaningful lives within their communities,” Marais says, emphasizing the need for support to keep this haven for learning alive.


Pictured above: Lize Marais with Milkwood Learning Academy students

Since the launch of the BackaBuddy campaign, 13 donors have come together to raise R15,500 towards Milkwood’s fundraising target of R60 000 to address their immediate financial needs, including rent and daily operational costs

“As the deadline approaches, the story of Milkwood Learning Academy and its fight for survival serves as a testament to the impact of community support and the difference it can make in the lives of children with special needs, who are the most vulnerable among us.” – says Bernelie Barwise ( Social Media Manager at BackaBuddy.)

To support Lize Marais and the Milkwood Learning Academy, visit their BackaBuddy campaign link: https://www.backabuddy.co.za/campaign/help-me-to-save-milkwood-school-for-specia


View the campaign video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cPAQTgx_iMk&t=5s