young local activist wins nkosi award

Submitted by ConsciousBabe on Mon, 2012-02-06 09:11

Chaeli Mycroft recently received the 2011 International Children's Peace Prize for her extensive charity work in South Africa.

Chaeli with Nobel Peace Prize winner Mairead Maguire and her Nkosi awardChaeli with Nobel Peace Prize winner Mairead Maguire and her Nkosi award

Wheelchair-bound Chaeli Mycroft travelled to the Netherlands last November to receive this prestigious award from the KidsRights Foundation , a sign of true recognition for the work she does with disabled children through her organisation The Chaeli Campaign.

This movement began in 2004 when friends came together to help raise money for a new wheelchair for Chaeli, which they achieved successfully in just 7 weeks. The Chaeli Campaign now runs nine programmes nationally that are working to support and mobilise children with disabilities.

Every child has light inside of them, but sometimes people don't care to look,' the matriculate said in her acceptance speech. Chaeli also emphasised the need for disabled children to be accepted and encouraged as an integral part of their communities.

Meeting with Zelda, Chaeli's mum, at the Chaeli Cottage in Plumstead a few days ago, I was struck by a formidable strength of character. And gathering from the overwhelming evidence of dynamic projects this organisation has succeeded in implementing, I am convinced Chaeli's mother played an important role in making things happen.

'They said Chaeli would never write,' says Zelda, as she points to a collection of her daughters framed poems lining the mantelpiece.

We are shown around the cafeteria (which is open daily and works on a donation basis), the offices and the therapist's studio, passing a group of youth on the patio busy at work making toy telephones for a learning assist project. I especially liked the mosaic bird bath in the garden, made as part of another project some time ago.

Chaeli shows off her first wheelchair, 1997Chaeli shows off her first wheelchair, 1997

I learn that The Chaeli Campaign affects around 3 000 children each year either with providing assistance devices, offering physical therapy,involvement in educational workshops or through their sports involvements - including the intriguing 'wheelchair dancing' that happens every Sunday.

The children's paintings and drawings on the walls inside tell a story of isolation and a need for acceptance. I think how South Africa still has a long way to go in providing wheelchair access for all public buildings, and wonder how much this could limit somebodys world.

'At the Chaeli Campaign we don't believe in diagnosing what is 'wrong', but rather we like to focus on the output of that person,' Zelda tells us. She goes on to explain how Chaeli is able to use a knuckle to type messages on her Blackberry's keyboard.

When Chaeli was born, doctors told her parents she had cerebral palsy (something which Zelda now believes was misdiagnosed) and when Chaeli was a young child it was decided she had degenerative neuropathy. Despite all this, this vivacious young lady is making plans to move into UCT res next year, something which is presently creating debate. She plans on doing a Social Sciences degree in Politics and Philosophy.

'We believe in the necessity for inclusion and that we all have the right to learn from one another,' says Zelda.

Winning the Nkosi award has proved yet another sign of the undeniable relevance of what Chaeli and her organisation represent. I hope they they will continue their wonderful work way into the future!

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