Fri. Jan 15th, 2021

Volunteers go out of their way to support fellow wheelchair users in KZN

What an amazing effort.

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Vusi Masinga and Sebenzisa Ndlazi, two
wheelchair-bound volunteers, have embarked on an outreach programme for fellow
wheelchair users who need to navigate treacherous terrain.

The initiative is being headed up by physiotherapist,
manager and clinical supervisor at Manguzi Hospital, Maryke Bezuidenhout, who aims
to harness the experience and expertise of key community members living with spinal
cord injuries.

The initiative

Wheelchair users in the 8th most socio-economically deprived district in South Africa have to undergo tremendous difficulty travelling along roads covered in thick beach sand.

Maryke says, “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, socialising and participating in community activities by wheelchair users a nightmare.”

The buddy programme

The buddy programme enables
wheelchair users who are struggling to pair with role models who make regular
visits to assist individuals coming to terms with their disability. These
sessions include discussion around social stigma and avenues to help generate

“The programme 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 what Maryke
believes is the key factor in the programme’s success.

She says, “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.”

The BackaBuddy campaign

Owing to a dwindling hospital fleet,
the outreach programme has experienced a few obstacles in recent months,
leaving role models to follow up telephonically or navigate the harsh terrain
on their wheelchairs in order to fulfil their various duties.

One of the volunteers, Vusi, approached Maryke with the idea to set up a BackaBuddy fund to try and help raise money for quad bikes that will enable the volunteers to serve their community more effectively.

Having saved up R10 000 each, the
equivalent of six months’ welfare grant, Vusi and Sebenzisa have set up a
campaign to crowdfund the remainder of the funds they need to “Mobilize

“In co-purchasing a quad bike, they will not only be able to improve their personal accessibility but will also be able to reach out further and to more people who need their support.

Quad bikes will revolutionize their mobility and independence, open up social and economic opportunities and enable them to provide psycho-social support services, build stronger networks and advocate more effectively for inclusion within their communities. I hope the public will continue supporting our outstanding volunteers through our BackaBuddy campaign.” 

To support the campaign

If you would like to support the efforts of these dedicated and kind-hearted community members, please visit the BackaBuddy campaign.

There are other BackaBuddy initiatives that also require help. Visit the BackaBuddy page for more information.

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