Escaping poverty isn't easy. Unless you're taught how.

If you look around, and you don't have to look far, it's easy to find the benefits and impact that tourism has on developing communities.

So it's not surprising that Christel DeHaan, co-founder of Resort Condominiums International (RCI) - the largest vacation exchange provider in the world - should start something like Christel House that now operates on five continents.

It's philosophy is based on Maimonides' adage: "If you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day; if you teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime."

Christel House builds and operates learning centers in impoverished neighborhoods with the goal of creating sustainable social and educational impact. Its holistic approach includes: quality education, nutritious meals, regular healthcare, life skills training, character development and work-study opportunities, as well as empowerment programs for parents and community members. At Christel House, children are taught the importance of caring, sharing and making a difference. As a result, the positive lessons learned by Christel House children are carried home, to impact the families and communities it serves.

Since 2002 Christel House South Africa had been holding classes in rented facilities. Without a permanent location, duplication of effort was frequently required and building the school culture was quite challenging.

Thanks to a nominal long-term land lease from the City of Cape Town, a new learning center has been built, bringing the Christel House South Africa community together in one place. The new facility includes classrooms, computer and science labs, a library, dance and art studios, a playground, and sports fields. The building was made possible by donations from both the United States and South Africa.

In a progressive approach to social service delivery, the Cape Town City Council has asked Christel House to anchor a "social services corridor" that will eventually include other qualified NGOs providing services that will include health and welfare, adult learning and employment training centers. Made possible by donations from both the US and South Africa, the new facility positions Christel House to take a leadership role in helping Cape Town's underserved communities.

To learn more about Christel House International and become a donor, visit www.christelhouse.org

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