As with so many others out there, our family, our lodge and our almost complete wedding venue project have been devastated by the Covid 19 virus. This may be a longer read, but our back story is the biggest component of why we have reached out to all of you.
For those of you who have been following our progress, you would have seen the time and dedication we have put towards our wedding venue. It's been an intense 4 years, especially this last year, as we spent every waking hour building, creating and raising funds to complete it. It has been an amazing experience with incredible highs and disappointing lows. Our 2 kids aged 3 and 4 were born during all this and have been by our side every step of the way. We, as a family, have all spent many days doing our part in the project.
We as a family have also sacrificed many of our "Normal" ways of life in order to achieve all this with the main goal in mind....to create a beautiful unique venue and surrounding grounds, so that many couples and families from all walks of life can create memories here to last a lifetime.
We were working with the local CTO (Community Tourism Organization) and Impendle Municipality, on setting up training programmes for the Grade 12 tourism students. The aim was to train the students in all aspects of the industry, and for them to obtain work experience at our venue. Our venue is going to be used for weddings, conferences, team building, school groups, music festivals and so much more. We are hoping to expand this programme and create job opportunities for many youth in all sectors of the business as we grow.
Our lodge only sleeps 20 people. We work closely with all the other lodges and establishments in our area, as they will get the overflow of accommodation from any events we host here. They are all within a 2-15km distance from us, so as a community, we were focusing on building awareness of our area and growing tourism to this incredible unknown part of the Kwa-Zulu Natal Midlands. Our CTO has grown substantially in the last 2 years and tourism was increasing monthly in our area.
All of these initiatives were an integral part of developing our venue and for the bigger picture and growth for our whole community.
We were just starting to recover from Sean's broken leg in February, when overnight, on 26 March, everything came to a complete halt with the Level 5 Covid-19 Lockdown. Our lodge closed, the building stopped, building crew left and the stress and uncertainty took over our every waking minute.
Like most families, we scrambled to make plans to cover overhead expenses which don’t stop even though the lodge was forced to close. We kept our full time staff employed and the roof over our heads. Our income came to a complete standstill, with no end in sight for the tourism industry at that stage. We had weddings booked in the coming months that had to be postponed and no new brides could travel to view the venue. Although we were not 100% finished, the response was overwhelming and we felt assured the years of sacrifice and hard work were going to be worth it.
When your world is turned upside down in an instant, once the shock has passed, we took stock of all aspects of our life.
The wedding venue was still our dream and we needed to find a way to complete it amongst all the chaos around us.
The local community around us helped build the chapel, as Sean's leg was still healing. We used all natural resources from the farm to landscape the gardens, we used donated plants from family and the local community to fill the flower beds, we got creative and hand made all the decor for the venue and the gardens from any bits we found in old sheds. We worked solidly throughout lockdown with only the supplies we had left and what we could create from scratch.
We managed to, in a few weeks, build the Glass Forest Chapel, as well as plant and landscape many areas and finish off most of the decor.
We are now at the point where we cannot complete the project due to lack of funds. We have carefully managed to keep head above water during the lockdown. With no income being generated, we had to use the last of the project funds in order to survive. Our project fund is now depleted. Our lodge cannot fully open until Level 1. We have received no assistance from any of the Covid relief schemes, and banks will not offer any bridging finance at the moment. We have exhausted all avenues with no luck.
So we are turning to family, friends, the extended Dargle Forest Lodge family and the general public, to help us raise the last bit of funds we need to complete this life long dream of ours.
We need to raise R150 000 to complete the Chapel, relocate our Eskom poles to supply sufficient power to the venue and chapel, build our own pews for the church and tables for the venue, buy a fridge and gas stove for the venue kitchen, fix parts of our dirt road and jumpstart the training programmes.
Any donation of any kind is a help toward this. If any surplus funds are raised, this will purely be directed to our staff skills development, the programmes with the CTO, together with the local youth and job creation.
As soon as we are able to complete this project the possibilities are endless for us as family, our tourism community and the greater local community.
We thank you for taking the time to read the above .