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Elizabeth Barrett

The Order of Mendi for Bravery in

Elizabeth Barrett Awarded for:
Her courageous act of selflessness in saving 14 children from a burning house and her continual giving to vulnerable orphans and street children.
Profile of Elizabeth Barrett

Elizabeth Barrett is a 68-years-old grandmother with a heart of gold and courage of a warrior.

Barrett saved the lives of 14 children from a burning house in Cape Town. She focused on the precious lives of children and sacrificed her belongings.

When the fire started Barrett was in the house with the children – six of them are her grandchildren, five are street children and three are orphans sent to her from an orphanage to spend the holidays. She was preparing porridge in the kitchen when she smelt burning wires.

There was smoke in the bedroom where the children slept. She woke them up and instructed them to run because the fire was too strong. As the children ran out of the house, Barrett counted them. One was missing. Putting aside here own safety, she ran back into the burning house to retrieve the little boy who was hiding under the bed next to the room where the fire was.

Barrett, who has lived in the house for more than 30 years, has been taking children off the streets for years, clothing them and putting them through school. She receives a Child Support Grant from the government for one of her grandchildren and an Old-Age Grant. The family’s other source of income is her daughter’s salary.