It is with immense sadness that we announce the passing of the beloved founder of Christel House South Africa , Christel DeHaan. Christel passed away peacefully after several years of illness on 6 June 2020 at her home in Indianapolis (Indiana, United States), surrounded by family. She was 77.
We will miss Christel dearly – who was an absolute force for change, and had the heart, compassion and the vision to build an organisation that transforms thousands of lives throughout the world.
Born in Nördlingen, Germany, in 1942, Christel emigrated to the United States at the young age of 20. By 1974, at the age of 32, she co-founded the timeshare business, Resort Condominium International (RCI). Under her leadership, RCI grew into a global enterprise with offices in 38 countries. In 1996, she sold RCI and in 1998 established Christel House International with the goal of transforming the lives of impoverished children around the world.
Christel House South Africa’s roots date back to the early 2000s when Christel visited the country to establish the first Christel House school in Cape Town. Carol Kriel, our Junior School principal, recalls how she and many of the other staff went door-to-door to recruit the school’s first students. To their amazement, many parents were very skeptical about this new private school for underprivileged students that did not cost a cent. As Carol explains, “No one could believe that there was this person that was going to do all these amazing things for their children”.
Today, there are eight Christel House institutions worldwide, which collectively serve nearly 6,000 students and graduates every day. Christel’s love for the children has always been the driving force behind her vision. As Ronald Fortune, our High School Principal, puts it, “the mission was always the children, and that was always clear with Christel.”
Christel’s steadfast commitment was unwavering and she used her business acumen to leverage social change with her love and humanity for people. Thanks to her careful planning, the work of Christel House will continue to be supported through funding from the Endless Success Foundation, an organisation created by her estate. It was her wish that all Christel House general and administrative expenses be covered in perpetuity. This allows all donor investments to continue to directly serve the programs and services needed by Christel House students.
We are blessed that we have been entrusted to continue this vision and this work within a framework of strong global leadership and financial stability. Thank you for supporting Christel’s dream and helping to change the lives of our children.
If you would like to leave a message honoring Christel, please click here.