Lives changed in the Western Cape through wheelchairs and mobility aids
Monday, 28 February 2022, marked the official handover of a donation of 900 wheelchairs and 1 200 mobility aids from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to the Western Cape Department of Health.
Symbolic handover ceremony. From left to right. Elder David Nish and Sister Theresa Nish (Volunteers), Paul Kruger (President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints), Dr Lizette Philips (Chief Director: Rural Health Services), Dr Keith Cloete (HOD: Western Cape Health Department), Juanita Arendse (Chief Director: Emergency and Clinical Services Support), and Dr Saadiq Kariem (COO: Western Cape Health Department):
This symbolic handover ceremony as devices, which took place at the Western Cape Rehabilitation Centre in Mitchells Plain, will be delivered according to patient specific orders placed over an 18-month period. The department provides various assistive devices to persons with disabilities across the province, these includes wheelchairs, walking aids, hearing aids, orthotics, and prosthetics. This donation will support and supplement the existing health system which has been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, thereby strengthening the mobility assistive devices services offered to persons with physical disabilities.
The mobility aids were fueled by charitable donations from members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints across the globe. It forms part of the Church’s humanitarian aims to improve mobility, health, and the educational and economic opportunities for people with physical disabilities.
According to Statistics South Africa’s most recent profile of people with disabilities, roughly 2 out of every 100 people in South Africa are living with some form of communication, self-care or walking difficulty. Without wheelchairs, people with physical disabilities are often confined to their homes or beds, socially isolated, unable to use public transport, and excluded from educational opportunities, as most schools are not equipped to help immobile people without a wheelchair.
“The lack of or inadequate assistive devices has been cited to be among the reasons for poor access to education and employment opportunities, leaving most persons with severe disabilities confined their homes with no alternatives, particularly those that reside in rural areas,” the National 2011 census report states.
And there’s a knock-on effect: “low levels of employment among persons with disabilities are thus partly a reflection of poor education outcomes,” the report observed.
According to Dr Keith Cloete, Head of Department, Western Cape Government Health, this donation from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will support the provincial Department of Health in providing appropriate assistive devices to persons with physical disabilities in the province’s rural areas, in a person-centred manner. “There are areas in the province with historical backlogs for wheelchairs as well as those which have developed due to the pandemic and addressing these types of backlogs is aligned to the strategic priority actions which we have established for the province over the next 6-18 months. Providing quality health services to persons with disabilities remains a high priority for the department and we look forward to working on this donation project.”
The programme offers a holistic intervention: in addition to assessing and correctly fitting devices for each individual needing one, the programme also trains individuals and caregivers on how to use and care for the device and provides support for repair and maintenance. As such, the donations will be flanked by training and refresher courses for about 50 local physiotherapists and occupational therapists in the province.
Caring for those in need is a foundational belief of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, says Paul Kruger, who oversees several congregations in the Cape Town area. “In the New Testament, Jesus Christ instructs His followers to ‘love their neighbours as themselves’. Members of the Church strive to follow this injunction. Our efforts are not perfect, but the principles of love and service underpin all that we do.”