A Shared Vision for Inclusion: Looking Back at Some Memorable Moments
Various staff contributions compiled by Kirsten Steenkamp
With our global ambassador and co-founder, Chaeli Mycroft, The Chaeli Campaign family has cultivated a mindset that disability gives people the opportunity to do things differently. For our ability activism and the community footprint we achieve, we have received support from around the world.
In South Africa, we are fortunate to be endorsed by Archbishop Desmond Tutu as “An organisation providing our country’s future leaders with opportunities to grow, to learn, and to thrive: standing up for the rights of our most marginalised and disenfranchised children; and growing an inclusive society that celebrates difference. I support such a splendid instrument as The Chaeli Campaign and encourage you to do so too!” says Arch Tutu.
This month of August as we celebrate 17 years in action, we look back at some of the highlights that have made our social impact journey rewarding. For those who have been a part of our journey, these memories will remind you of our humble beginnings and the hope which inspires our vision for inclusion. For those who are less familiar with our path here’s a peek that with a passionate team and a continued belief in the work we do, anything is possible!
- Founding of The Chaeli Campaign (2004)
“The thread that runs through all of our programmes is based on advocacy and fighting for a more ability-focused and inclusive world”, says CEO Zelda Mycroft. We recognise that each child has the right to belong – in their family, school and community. Since Zelda became the first paid employee in July 2005, the organisation has impacted over 80 000 beneficiaries: children, parents, teachers and other professionals. We have grown six programmes, in addition to two separate NPOs operating in various sectors in South Africa: inclusive sports and inclusive arts.
- Growing our Therapies team (2005)
Carefully dividing their time between Ocean View, Masiphumelele and their other roles at the organisation, a select number of therapists sprouted the Therapies and Outreach programme not long after we opened. “Now we are a much bigger and more diverse group who work in many more areas.” Our physiotherapist, Ann, says she is “most proud of growing and being part of this awesome team! The educational/therapeutic team brings skills, experience and depth together, empowering and upskilling the team from within.”
- Buying Chaeli Cottage (2007)
Did you know that the Chaeli Cottage premises was the original Chaeli Campaign headquarters? Providing a base for our therapists and administrative staff, the offer to purchase the property became available in 2007. However, we had 14 days to secure the funds… We kicked off our ‘14 Days for a Dream’ campaign and within record time, we reached 120 people who signed up as pledge partners. The magical watershed moment in which the bank accepted these monthly donations as surety gave us the platform to make our dream a reality!
- Launching the Ambassador Programme (2009)
In 2009, we first launched our Pay-It-Forward Ambassadors’ Programme. The mission is to empower young people (ages 9 – 17) as social entrepreneurs – learning how to pursue opportunities towards social change! Among other focus areas, these young ambassadors learn how to speak in public,
gain awareness about sustainable development goals (SDGs), build relationships and network. Notably, facilitators support our young entrepreneurs to fundraise for a social impact project of their own.
Through this year-long programme, the ambassadors realise that the most important story they are ever going to tell is their own life story. They claim who they are, where they come from and what they have to offer the world. And suddenly, they understand that they are powerful. From the first Chaeli Campaign HQ chapter, we have now expanded this programme into five provinces, including 11 chapters in the Western Cape!
- Upskilling vital community workers (2010)
Initially part of a parent support group in Masiphumelele, Bukiwe expressed commitment to help her community. She was trained alongside our occupational therapist to become a Chaeli Campaign community development worker, creating a strong network of disabled children and their parents who need her support close to home. She also facilitates her own Ambassadors’ chapter in Masi! Further qualifying as a community rehab worker through the UCT Disability Studies Unit, we honour Bukiwe as an incredible asset to the Chaeli Campaign.
- Establishing ECD Support (2009)
Working closely with disabled children in ECD (Early Childhood Development) centres across Masiphumelele and Phillipi, our therapy outreach team was approached by teachers who needed support for the many children affected by barriers to learning. Serving the true needs of the community and our beneficiaries, we established a programme in which we teach children motor skills, provide referral reports, reinforce parents’ knowledge and encourage learning through play.
Sessions are presented by an occupational therapist and community development worker, combining their unique skills to offer a support service that teachers value. This project has grown over the years and currently reaches approximately 50 ECD centres in Cape Town each year.
- Ladies Mile Grand Prix! (2010)
This fun, inclusive day out was our first annual advocacy event which took place for several years. With the aim of creating awareness and a space for people with disabilities, the 2km route along Ladies Mile Road in Cape Town called for entrants to race “anything on wheels”!
To extend our community outreach advocacy, we invited and bussed our beneficiaries from Ocean View and Masiphumelele to the Bergvliet Sports Association and allowed their creativity to dictate their mode of transport. From go-carts, wheelchairs and even hospital beds on wheels, this memorable event signified inclusion and fun for everyone. Addressing the sporting need for people with disabilities in South Africa led to the birth of our inclusive sports NPO, the Chaeli Sports and Recreation Club (CSRC).
- Opening Chaeli Cottage Preschool (2012)
A mother looking for a suitable early education for her daughter inspired the beginnings of our inclusive preschool at the Chaeli Cottage. Initiating a cycling event and managing to raise R90 000, the preschool began with 3 children. But in 2012 when we were ready to grow the number of children we could welcome in our space, it was decided to purchase the property next door to our organisation HQ. To achieve this, we had one month to secure R2 million!
Hosting presentations in Johannesburg and Cape Town, we invited key individuals whom we thought would want to help us with our dream. Reaching our goal with 3 weeks to go until the deadline, we were fortunate to successfully expand our preschool! Almost a decade later and counting, we pride ourselves on providing a safe and loving environment for disabled and non-disabled children to learn through play – together.
- LMU Comes to Lavender Hill (2014)
American students visiting from California, from Loyola Marymount University (LMU), spent the day celebrating disability awareness at the home of Hazel, our Lavender Hill community development worker. “The whole Lavender Hill was there! I made enormous pots of stews, bobotie and other local foods for the international students to taste”, Hazel says. “We even had a braai for them, it was so much fun!” Students also painted over graffiti-covered walls to bring some colour, hope and positive energy to the area! It was an incredible opportunity for our visitors to understand the landscape of the under-resourced areas that we serve and support. Enjoy the students’ video here!
- The 1st Chaeli Cottage Preschoolers Graduate
Trinity was one of our very first kids and the first Chaeli Cottage preschooler to graduate to mainstream school. Her baby brother, Rocco, also spent 3 years with us. While Rocco and Trinity were non-disabled, Phoebe, their cousin, had global developmental delay. This family was the first of many who have been educated together, learning from a young age about inclusion and the value of belonging.
- Advocacy & Training Supports a New NPO
Due to their specialisation in disability care, three of our highly skilled therapists have been instrumental in establishing various projects in Cape Town. In 2015, with the incubation support of The Chaeli Campaign, the Bhabhisana Baby Project (BBP) was established. The role of the BBP is to support the needs of babies with developmental delay in their first 1000 days of life, a crucial period in which the babies await state health services. This early therapy intervention maintains a huge focus on parent training, transferring essential knowledge and tools.
- Diversifying the Arts Through Inclusion
To promote inclusivity in the creative arts, The Chaeli Campaign and the Inclusive Arts Collective (IAC) – our inclusive arts NPO – has supported the co-creation of 4 plays. Encouraging a shift in the national discourse around disability, the 2016 English play In The Wings was translated into Xhosa and adapted to the nuances of an African context. Ezimpikweni was launched at the Zolani Centre in Nyanga, after which it was taken to the Zabalaza Festival at the Baxter Theatre. Needless to say, this local play was very well received!
Another play produced by the IAC is No fun ction alL anguage, a production that was chosen as one of 3 international plays invited to perform at the April Fest (2018). In 2021, there is news! In association with the IAC, the play has been selected to be showcased at the first ever fully virtual IPAY CultureCrew Festival! “We were chosen amongst 14 works through a rigorous 2-month adjudication process”. To be selected from 120 entries, “that is high praise indeed,” tells play director Jayne Batzofin.
- Our Journal Club gets published!
The extensive Therapies and Outreach team meets quarterly to evaluate relevant academic research, with the primary aim being to enrich understanding and practice. These interdisciplinary discussions also allow for the educational/therapeutic team to share personal experiences and professional insights.
As rehabilitation practitioners working at a grassroots level, the collaborative learnings from working in various under-resourced communities have been collated and published in academic journals on three separate occasions. “What a wonderful opportunity for us as therapists, to learn
from the rich experiences and cultural knowledge of the community development workers as we explore the application of published evidence in our work!” says Martha Geiger.
- International Outreach to Mwanza, Tanzania (2018)
Attending a local conference in which Chaeli was a speaker in 2015 was Julius Kenyamanyara, Director of the Village of Hope Mwanza, Tanzania. Later that year, while Chaeli tackled her historical Mt Kilimanjaro summit, Zelda led several training sessions with staff and children at the community in Mwanza.
In 2018, our OT was invited to spend 2 weeks working with the staff to further develop appropriate support for the children with disabilities. Rosemary says that “it was a special time working alongside staff and children to draw up individual support plans, introduce more stimulating routines, encourage reasonable accommodation in the classrooms and make some adaptations to wheelchairs and furniture.”
- Spring Sale support from the Rondebosch Boys! (2019)
For more than 10 years, the money that was raised through the Grade 6 Rondebosch Boys’ annual spring market went to The Chaeli Campaign. Over the years, funds have empowered differently-abled children with laptops, standing frames and wheelchairs. One of the latest donations by the school was an inclusive swing, an essential and special part of our preschool playground!
- Jenna-Mai full scholarship to Reddam (2020)
Preparing our young learners with skills to cope with formal education, we support some to transition to a more individualised special needs schooling environment. Other preschoolers graduate and enter mainstream school, an opportunity to become disability rights activists in their new communities. The significance of an inclusive mindset can be subtle, but the impact is life-long – and powerful.
After thorough engagement with school management, Jenna-Mai – a differently-abled Chaeli Cottage graduate – received a full scholarship to Reddam House Constantia for her school career, Grade 1-12! We encourage diversity in every sense and are proud to be supported by schools which share our values. Schools into which our learners have successfully transitioned are: Vista Nova, Glenbridge, Bel Porto, Plumstead Prep, Wynberg Boys, St Augustine’s, Rustenberg Junior, Timour Hall and Reddham House Constantia.
- Music therapy with Steve Grocott
We were fortunate to meet Steve Grocott some years ago through our physiotherapist, Ann. Steve is a musician with a special interest in introducing rhythm to young people. Enchanting our young kids through his music, Steve has spent time in some of our ECD centres, as well as our Chaeli Cottage Preschool. Currently, he facilitates Zoom weekly sessions from his home in the UK!
Big wins and miniscule progress are commemorated at every opportunity, reminding us of the hardships we have overcome to continue making a difference in the disability sector in South Africa. Working hard to continue our inclusive education and community support as best we can during these challenging times, we move forward with an expanded skillset and a strengthened belief in the resilience of people. Here’s to the next 17 years – changing the life of one child at a time!