For many disabled children in South Africa, a wheelchair is a costly item that their families simply cannot afford. Since they are immobile, most of these children do not go to school nor do they have access to any kind of formal education. It is estimated that as many as 600,000 disabled children across South Africa are not receiving an education. In the end, these children are left without mobility and even worse, without hope.
In 2016, WIZO South Africa was approached by Arthur Lenk, Israel’s Ambassador to South Africa, and asked if they would like to be involved in a very special project together with Israeli NGO Wheelchairs of Hope, a project that would provide wheelchairs from Israel to disabled children in South Africa.
“When this opportunity was presented to us, we were eager to participate,” Moonyeen Castle, President of WIZO South Africa, said. “We saw this as a very unique opportunity on several fronts. Not only would we be giving mobility to those in need in South Africa who have physical disabilities, but this was also a means of highlighting WIZO.”
“This project fits perfectly with our WIZO objectives of working to uplift underprivileged women and children in Israel, with an emphasis on early childhood education and promoting hasbara [public diplomacy],” Tamar Lazarus, Honorary President of WIZO South Africa, told The Jerusalem Post.
Developed by Israeli doctors and engineers from ALYN Hospital in Jerusalem, Israel’s leading pediatric and adolescent rehabilitation center, the Wheelchairs of Hope wheelchairs are now being distributed across South Africa to hospitals, schools and individual children. Each brightly colored wheelchair has a sticker affixed to it its back that reads “To the children of South Africa, with love from Israel”.
The first 50 child-size wheelchairs arrived from Israel last week and were distributed to the Maitland Cottage Children’s Orthopedic Hospital in Cape Town, the Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital in Johannesburg, the Umduduzi Hospice Care for Children in Durban, the Give a Child a Family organization in Margate and to individual children and other organizations identified by WIZO.
“I have to commend Tamar Lazarus who worked tirelessly to make sure that this project became a reality,” Castle said. “Obviously, a project such as this needs to have sponsorships and I want to recognize the generosity of the Lazarus Family of Cape Town. Bernhard Lazarus sponsored 50 chairs in honor of his wife Pearl’s 90th birthday. We were also fortunate to get donations from WIZO members and other people in South Africa who felt strongly about this worthwhile project.”
“We know that the receipt of these wheelchairs will have a truly lifelong impact on these kids, and their entire family unit will be transformed by the gift of the basic human right of mobility,” Tamar Lazarus told The Jerusalem Post.
"One of the most basic things we take for granted is the ability to walk, to simply get from one place to another," World WIZO Chairperson, Prof. Rivka Lazovsky, said. "In South Africa, there are over half a million children in who are unable to receive an education because of their disabilities. I am so proud of our WIZO South Africa federation for taking part in this life-changing project which gives those in need an opportunity for a better life and future which is the real ethos of our WIZO work.”
Photo Credits: WIZO South Africa