Vusi Masinga (43) and Sebenzisa Ndlazi (53) are two dynamic volunteers in a project referred to as “Mobilize Manguzi”. It’s a peer-to-peer outreach program for wheelchair users in Manguzi, in far North-Eastern South Africa.
The initiative is headed by physiotherapist, manager and clinical supervisor at Manguzi Hospital, Maryke Bezuidenhout (39). The initiative aims to harness the experience and expertise of key community members living with spinal cord injuries. It also aims support fellow disabled individuals with the necessary tools to thrive despite their disability.
Traveling is particularly challenging for wheelchair users in Manguzi
They live in the 8th most socio-economically deprived districts in South Africa. The area is entirely covered in thick beach sand and there’s only one single tar road.
“Even with a rural active wheelchair, propelling through the thick sand for any distance is virtually impossible. Bush taxis only follow specific routes and often charge double for wheelchairs. This makes general day to day life, accessing health and welfare services, building a business, socializing and participating in community activities by wheelchair users a nightmare.” says Maryke.
New and struggling wheelchair users are paired with role models who maintain regular visits. This “buddy” program assists individuals in coming to terms with their disability. This also helps the to face and address social stigma and strengthens relationships and problem-solves new avenues for income generation.
“The program plays a vital role in the community, especially for those who are unable to travel to get the support they need. Our volunteers also ensure individuals are linked to relevant medical care and social services, learn practical wheelchair skills, assist with repairs, give advice on goal setting and living a healthy active healthy lifestyle.” says Maryke.
The personal approach is the key factor in the program’s success
“People with recent and old spinal cord injuries simply relate better and listen better to people who have been through the same thing. They connect, they ask more pertinent questions, they take the advice. Being privileged and not living with a disability, we remain very far removed from the daily challenges faced by people with disabilities in low socioeconomic communities no matter how hard we try to understand.” says Maryke
The volunteers have faced their fair share of adversity, but have in many ways reached their full potential despite their physical challenges.
Vusi became disabled when he was involved in a taxi accident
This happened on his way to the sugarcane farm where he worked. Unable to cope, his wife deserted him, leaving him on his own during the early stages of his rehabilitation.
“Vusi had no one to take him to the nearby hospital during the early stages of his rehabilitation, leaving him to recover from pressure sores and major depression on his own” says Maryke.
He now looks after both his sons on his own and his children attend the local high school, repairs wheelchairs, provides peer support and has a tract of land where he is growing gum trees for local production.
“Vusi has achieved so much for someone with no formal education. He never gives up.” adds Maryke
Sebenzisa was a mine worker who became paraplegic because of a mine blast
He is a motivated person, who has achieved his highest level of function. He is the first support system to his wife who became a paraplegic eight years after him.
“Sebenzisa is very independent when it comes to fulfilling his role as a father and a husband. He herds his own cattle herd in a wheelchair, has put up the fence for a kraal himself, is supervising the building of an extension on his house, keeps a large flock of chickens and a herd of goats for additional income. All this he does in a very hospitable environment in a homestead that is a considerable distance from any support or basic amenities”- says Maryke
With general austerity measures and a dwindling hospital fleet, the outreach program has experienced a few obstacles in recent months. Role models need to follow up telephonically or navigate the terrain on their wheelchairs to fulfill their various duties.
Vusi approached Maryke with a proposal to raise funds to purchase a quad bike for himself and fellow colleague, Sebenzisa. This will allow them to serve the disabled community more effectively.
Vusi and Sebenzisa managed to save up R10,000 each (the equivalent of six months welfare grant). They have set up a campaign on donations based crowdfunding platform, BackaBuddy. They want to crowdfund the remainder of the funds they need to Mobilize Manguzi. The campaign went live on the 14 March 2019 and has thus far raised a total of R12,488.64. Their target is R70 000.
If overfunded, Vusi and Sebenzisa hope to assist their fellow peer volunteers with funds. These funds will allow them to purchase quad bikes for themselves (so they can perform better as a team).
Want to help to Mobilize Manguzi?
Click here to donate to the campaign on BackaBuddy.
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