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The Pebbles Project

by Tom Cannavan, 12/06

The UK Wine Forum is this web site's discussion group, where hundreds of online wine lovers get together to talk about their favourite subject. One of its most active members is Englishman Keith Prothero, who is lucky enough to be a part-time resident of South Africa's beautiful Western Cape. During his regular six-month residency in South Africa, Keith became involved with a charity called the Pebbles Project.

Located near Stellenbosch, Pebbles provides support for children with special needs, particularly those suffering from being born with Foetal Alcohol Syndrome and associated conditions. Historically, wine farm workers were paid a proportion of their wages in wine (the 'dop' system), which has resulted in a culture of alcohol mis-use. South Africa has the highest numbers of children born with Foetal Alcohol Syndrome in the world: 36 times higher than in the UK.

Children affected by FAS and associated conditions can suffer from a range of physical and mental disabilities, as well as having learning difficulties. The Pebbles Project provides specialist educational support for disadvantaged children aged 2 - 12 in the Western Cape, including training for parents, wine farm crèche workers and primary school teachers.

The aim of Pebbles is to equip the community to identify special needs children, and to take the relevant steps to aid and support them. The Project has trained and funded two community workers, 50 crèche workers and 5 special needs teachers. They support 28 crèches, 5 primary schools and will impact the lives of over 1000 children.

   In 2005 Keith Prothero began to organise wine-based events to raise funds for the charity via the UK Wine Forum. These included blind tasting challenges and vertical tastings of rare South African wines held in Manchester, Nottingham and London. Pretty soon the UK Wine Forum had unofficially adopted the charity. During 2006 not only did Keith and the Forum membership raise close to £7,000 for the disadvantaged children of the Cape, but individual children were sponsored by members of the Forum on a long-term basis.

The wonderful poster above was made for us by some of the Pebbles children recently. Sophia Warner, one of the founders of the Project, says: "Some of the children from one of the Pebbles Project crèches have made this beautiful poster to thank all member of wine-pages' UK Wine Forum. It's our way of saying thank you for the donations that have enabled us to provide educational materials to the crèches, and to train the teachers."

support Pebbles!

As well as the sterling work done by Keith Prothero, and the huge generosity shown by members of the UK Wine Forum, is appealling to all of its visitors to make a donation to Pebbles, or to consider sponsoring a child. Click on this link to the Pebbles donation page to read details of the range of ways you can get involved in improving the education and life prospects for these children.

Primary schools in the Western Cape can have as many as 60 children per class with just one teacher, though many families live in desperate poverty and cannot afford to send their child to a crèche or pre-school facility, let alone buy uniforms, shoes or books. Some children begin primary school at the age of 6 unable to hold a pencil. Without the support offered by The Pebbles Project, most of these children will not succeed in Primary School. Instead of sending Christmas cards this year, is sponsoring a child for one year. Please do consider supporting this life-enhancing project.

Pebbles Project donation page