Since 2020, the Rachel Swart Fund has been working on a number of rural programmes in the form of community training and counselling. Our data suggests that not only do these programmes uplift and up-skill community members, but they also result in RSF receiving more applications for mobility devices. Rachel Swart Fund has also found that many individuals are unable to be without their devices for the amount of time that is needed to send the device to Cape Town for repairs. Teaching the wheelchair users and others how to repair and maintain these devices has resulted in a shorter turn-around time and means that individuals experience less disruption to their daily lives. As a result of the initial success of these programmes, the Rachel Swart Fund is hoping to expand further into the Northern Cape, Limpopo and Mpumalanga with our programmes and training course for the communities in need.
Breede Valley, Western Cape
RSF conducted a repair and maintenance course with disabled and able-bodied community members in the Breede Valley in 2020. Individuals were brought to Cape Town and taught basic maintenance and repair by Antoinette Pienaar of Simplify Wheelchair Seating. The team from the Breede Valley found the training to be incredibly helpful and enriching for both themselves and the members of the community who are disabled. Since attending the courses, some of the attendees have decided that they want to start their own business servicing wheelchairs in the Breede Valley. We have done multiple training sessions with them so that they can be able to properly help those around them. The RSF will be assisting the members of the newly-created “Roll In Roll Out” team with supplying them with a workshop in the form of a container. We’re also helping them with tools and training through a partnership with Antoinette Pienaar. RSF has committed to a six-month support to help get them up and running.
Manguzi, Kwa-Zulu Natal
Manguzi on the KZN North Coast is an isolated rural community with many needs. Through our work with therapists from the local government hospitals and clinics, RSF has been able to meet some of the needs of the community. One of the needs identified was a peer support programme. The Rachel Swart Fund has therefore organised and sponsored training for people from Manguzi to receive basic counselling. This means that these trained individuals are able to visit their neighbours and provide them with basic services and assistance that they might not have had access to otherwise. The peer support programme is not the only programme RSF is currently involved in in the Manguzi area. We also have done a seat training course so that we can train people to assist people with disabilities so that they can avoid complications that can arise from incorrect seating. Some community members have also received training on how to maintain wheelchairs and devices in the Manguzi area. Two of the members who came to our training are now servicing on average 40 wheelchairs a month.
Dundee, Kwa-Zulu Natal
The Rachel Swart Fund was put into contact with a man named Nkosinathi after his child, who has Cerebral Palsy, received a wheelchair. Helping people with disabilities is something that Nkosinathi is passionate about. Because of this, he has been trained in basic wheelchair seating and wheelchair repair and maintenance. He knows and understands the importance of being seated correctly in a wheelchair and has seen first-hand that his son needs to be in a working and well-maintained wheelchair. Nkosinathi has also been taught APT (advanced paper technology). He has been trained by Gillian Saloojee along with 2 members from Lesotho. Nkosinathi has been given tools by RSF to help him work on the wheelchairs and will be paid a stipend for the labour. Therapists from Durban have also travelled down to Cape Town so that they can receive seating and maintenance training. This training will help them assist people who use mobility devices so that they can get the most out of their devices when they are working properly.
The Rachel Swart Fund has built up a relationship with two men from Lesotho. They have been trained in wheelchair maintenance and repair and they have identified a need for more widely accessible skills like wheelchair repair in a country like Lesotho. They want to work as travelling repair and maintenance men for wheelchairs and other devices and want to start their own business training others to do the same. They are also trained in APT and we hope to get these APT skills into a tender situation (eg making desks, tray tables etc) as another form of income. The Rachel Swart Fund has provided them with tool boxes so that they can perform the tasks they need to and we are hoping to form a company centred around their workshop so that they can earn an income from the work that they do around mobility devices.
Therapists and future courses
We’ve had therapists coming from Durban and the Eastern Cape for our training courses in seating and repairs. These therapists have found the courses to be helpful to the work that they do. Some of the people who have been on our courses are linked directly to hospitals and clinics and work through them to assist clients. Others work more independently and through word of mouth.
Another training course that is being devised is a more advanced and complex seating course so that we can ensure that individuals are comfortable in their wheelchairs and avoid complications that may arise as a result of incorrect seating. The Rachel Swart Fund hopes to continue running training courses for communities around South Africa because we have seen just how beneficial these courses have been for all involved.