‘Disability only becomes a tragedy when society fails to provide the things needed to lead one’s daily life’. – Judith Heurmann
The beauty about the life journey programme is not only making Inclusion The Solution an actual reality for persons with disabilities, but it is also seeing persons with disabilities, rediscovering themselves, evolving and fired up to dream for the future while finding moments of joy and happiness in their everyday life. Through the life journey programme, we came to cross path with Lesego, a forever smiling and cheerful 24 year old young man. Due to reasons relating to his form of disability, Lesego had to quit school at an early age, he eventually registered at a community computer college because he has realised the impact that he has in his community and for his family. His mental health journey and fighting yet gentle spirit is one that made us pour our hearts out in support for him. The reality is mental health costs are too high in South Africa, as such, many young people find themselves in unfortunate situations in pursuit of “quick fix” coping mechanism. Fortunately for Lesego, through the funds raised on GlobalGiving he was afforded an opportunity to have access to a psychologist and psychiatrist that he’s been seeing over the past couple of months.
The pandemic has been terrible for everyone and we have had to learn to conduct and live our lives in a certain way. Everyone’s psychosocial needs were affected by endless lockdown restrictions, everyone had to find different but healthy coping mechanisms, and for Lesego it was volunteering to work at our 10mX30m vegetable green house tunnel in Soweto, Orlando East which was exclusively established for persons with disabilities to produce fresh vegetables to sell to the community. He has on so many occasions indicated to us his love for gardening, he volunteers 3x a week at the tunnel and he is an exceptional and well-loved sales person by the community. He has a way of showing his care for people and animals alike and his friendly demeanour is what we believe are his secret weapon of getting more people buying the freshly produced vegetables on the days he’s there than when he is not. This is Lesego’s life journey and we are happy to have been part of it in one form or the other, we can not do it on our own but through your continuous support and donation to Life Journey, for that we unreservedly thank you.
Accessibility to resources and services is one of the many factors that make inclusion a reality for most persons with disabilities. On our previous report we mentioned how one of our Life Journey beneficiary – Mr Simamisa managed to secure an internship/ learnership in the midst of the pandemic. He also did receive a specialised light weight wheelchair which the idea was to make it convenient for him when he had to use public transport, In South Africa a typical public taxi ride is in a form of a mini bus taxi with 15/16 other passengers. As much as this is cheaper, it is also not the most convenient or comfortable for someone using a wheelchair because they will need more space than some drivers and passengers are willing to give.
Fortunately for Simamisa and through GlobalGiving, he became the 2nd recipient of the E-trike Wheelchair which he will be using to drive around 15kilometres through traffic and going to work on his own daily. This is a huge empowering move for him because he will no longer struggle with finding “the right taxi” to/from work. Now he keeps his light weight wheelchair at the office for easy access around the office. The E-trike Wheelchair affords him more freedom to access most services around his community with ease.
The global pandemic has of course made us readjust most of the services that we offer to our beneficiaries and how we engage with them. For a Life Journey program to be a success, health and safety of our beneficiaries is our main priority. We have continued distributing masks, sanitisers, soap and even food parcels to some beneficiaries in need. While it's all hands on deck for our Utho Ngathi team making sure we are looking after our beneficiaries, we never take the support and donations through GlobalGiving for granted. One of the many teachings of this pandemic, is to invest in the wellbeing and future of our beneficiariies so that they too may be self sustainable and be at the point in their lives where they are able to look after their loved ones outside of the little social disability grant that barely covers their essential needs.
Inclusion of persons with disability which is in the centre of what we do would mean nothing if we were not looking beyond the person’s immediate needs. Looking beyond what a person with disability needs, and what more can be done to impact their lives has shaped how Life Journey program support our beneficiaries. Many of our implementation plans were delayed due to the pandemic outbreak and lockdown rules which here in South Africa prevented us from moving from province to province, this made it even more hard as we could not reach most of our beneficiaries who are at rural areas. We had to design some of our Life Journey activities to include hygiene packages which we sent to villages so that our beneficiaries can stay safe and protected. These hygiene packages included soap, sanitisers and reusable masks.
Some of the funds we raised through GlobalGiving, we have managed to impact the life of Thandeka, by purchasing an E-wheelchair which she can use to go around the community selling some of the fresh produce from our Inclusive Chicken and Vegetable Farm, this is one of many great turning points in her life as now she will not only be coming to the centre to work, but she will also be going out there to the community. This works very well as a moving and living awareness campaign because as she drives around, more people in the village where disability used to be regarded as a curse of some sort, they get to see disability in a different light. This will just go to show the importance of capacitating and supporting more persons with disabilities in such rural communities. Mobility and accessibility for Thandeka has been made a reality also by the construction of a concrete slab which moves from her house to the outside toilet which also links up to the main street level. The pictures below shows Thandeka getting oriented on how her new chair functions.
Everyone has a story to tell about how lockdown was and has been, how it affected their lives one way or the other, but for one of our young beneficiaries, His story will be one of the happy ones to tell. Simamisa was in lockdown at his home province which is 500kms away from the city where he studied and been living in for the past 5 years. During lockdown, we managed to find him his first ever internship/learnership. Through the Life Journey program, we managed to arrange permits for him to move from Kwazulu-Natal Province to Gauteng Province-Johannesburg, set up a rental place for him to stay close to his new job and support him with a light weight specialised wheelchair which he uses going to work by public transport. Today Simamisa sits at a front desk of an international multi-million company and goes through training of business administration qualification.
We are only able to do the work that we do, reach more peaple like Thandeka and Simamisa and make inclusion an actualy reality in their lives ONLY through the support of you supporters of Utho Ngathi Disability Projects. We thank you for your continous support that enables us to reach further out to people living in communities wich would otherwise be forgoten.
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