When the Little River changed…



On Monday 25th September 2023, our local river here in Stanford transformed itself from the Klein (small) River to the Huge River. It swept through the town causing incredible damage – but fortunately no loss of life. Now we are cleaning up and assessing the enormous damage to property. There is mud! The receding river left behind a film of grey mud that covers everything.

Children’s Book Network has been badly affected Over a metre of river covered what we jokingly called ‘Our Global Headquarters’ – a large garden hut crammed with books and stationery and files full of records from the last ten years. At least we got the answer to a question that we had wondered about. Are the book toolboxes waterproof? Well, they are, but not when bobbing about in a mud bath. Water got in through the lids and destroyed the books inside. It also attacked the shelves of books waiting to be processed, a considerable library that circulates in our community book-boxes, and – probably – the bookshelves and desk they were stored in. Five bakkie-loads of destruction left for the municipal tip during the day. (Bakkie being the colloquial word for a small truck.)

The flood happened on Monday, but it took us a couple of days to be able to get into the shed through the water, and then the mud. It also rained. (It is raining again right now.) Hopefully it will wash some of the mud off the garden.)

So, Friday was the day. All over town, volunteers were helping the people who were desperately looking to get at least some part of their lives back. Soup appeared. People arrived with sandwiches. Spare rooms were offered. New friendships were forged. It was, at the same time, terrible and wonderful.

But the job has been done. We now have a wet, but empty, garden hut and what we could salvage is stored in a garage belonging to one of our board advisors, Elzane Steynberg who did sterling service ferrying the damp rubbish to the dump.

We were already looking for a place where we could not only store our stuff, but also reach more children with activities like after-school reading. Now the need is urgent. We can only hope for another miracle. (The first miracle was that the water stopped less than a centimetre short of Lesley’s home, where our children’s library and reference library live.)

Anyone with any ideas should contact: admin@childrensbook.co.za or Lesley at lesley@lesleybeake.co.za

Our sincere thanks go to:

All the people who phoned to voice their concern.

Charmaine Julius and Nancy Mujaj who staggered through the mud with huge loads.

Elzane Steynberg for putting in a punishing day of driving and sorting.

People who just popped in to see if they could help.

William Low, who donated the garden hut in the first place.

Sulieman and Anna Meja

The Stanford community who rose to the challenge the whole town was facing with generosity and good humour.


Anyone who was even slightly downhill of us – and particularly those nearer the river – had a very much worse time of it. Over sixty houses were completely wrecked. Cars have been leaving on flatbed trucks all week. The sewage system is under threat and water supplies are coming in by tanker to those worst affected. Hermanus, our nearest big town, has no water in many areas – and a wait of potentially months before the pipes can be repaired. It was, and still is, a disaster. (And we wish the rain would just stop.)

Lesley 30 September 2023

Join the CBN mailing list