“The true measure of any society can be found in how it treats its most vulnerable members.”
– Mahatma Gandhi
There are parts of society that are often forgotten in the modern, chaotic, commercial world in which we live. However, the forgotten are not absent. They still exist and, in the right hands, thrive. The truth is that South Africa, and the world at large, has a population of people who struggle with profound intellectual disabilities and the related challenges.
According to the South African Journal of Disability; “Approximately 200 million people live with intellectual disability (ID), making it the world’s most prevalent disability (World Health Organization [WHO] & World Bank 2011).” Of these 200 million people, just under 2% are diagnosed with profound intellectual disabilities. This is the rarest and most severe form of intellectual disability. People living with profound intellectual disabilities are usually physically disabled and often wheelchair bound, they may be blind, deaf and/or mute. This makes it impossible for them to work, live alone or care for themselves. In most cases, they cannot communicate their basic needs. As a result, they are often misunderstood and may not receive the suitable care.
Fortunately there is hope for this situation. Places such as LITTLE EDEN – Society for the Care of Persons with Mental Handicap, offer a safe haven for those who would have had no other means of fending for themselves. LITTLE EDEN houses and cares for 300 children and adults living with ID, 240 of whom come from indigent families or were abandoned.
To meet the essential needs of advocacy and support for people with profound intellectual disability, LITTLE EDEN Society hosts an annual CEO Wheelchair Campaign. The Campaign calls on participants to donate towards the care of the LITTLE EDEN residents, and then spend a day at work in a wheelchair. The use of wheelchairs gives participants a small glimpse into what a wheelchair bound life might be like, keeping in mind that those living with profound intellectual ability spend their lives in one.
According to Xelda Rohrbeck, CEO at LITTLE EDEN, “this Campaign seeks to raise awareness of and generate compassion towards those living with profound intellectual disabilities and limited mobility. We believe that no matter how profoundly disabled a person may be, he or she is still a whole complete being, with a body, a mind, a spirit and a soul.”
Last year’s campaign saw the likes of Discovery Limited’s Adrian Gore, Multotec’s Thomas Holtz, Maurizio Galimberti from Oberon Pharma, and Jeandre Koen of Mix Telematics participating. Each of them spent a day in a wheelchair to support this campaign. Reportedly, Koen described the experience as; “Life changing”, and Holtz stated; “I definitely appreciate my mobility much more since this exercise. I am an active runner and cyclist, so this made an impact on me.”
In the past, this campaign was open exclusively to CEOs, with a donation amount of R50 000. While the donation amount of R50 000 will still be required from CEOs to participate, CEOs and business leaders of small businesses who wish to support the campaign may participate with a donation of R30 000. Participants are encouraged to challenge other CEOs in their field to join in this campaign in aid of LITTLE EDEN Society.
South African financial donations to LITTLE EDEN Society are tax deductible (with certain limitations) and will receive an 18A Tax Certificate, which can be used to reclaim tax from SARS. Supporters of LITTLE EDEN will also earn points on the Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment (B-BBEE) Scorecard.
“Our special children and adults may not experience the world in the same way that we do, but they have so much to teach us! From them we learn about the power of the human spirit, the joy to be found in simple achievements, the satisfaction of caring for those who are weaker than ourselves, love that seeks no reward,” concludes Mrs Rohrbeck.
This year, the CEO Wheelchair Campaign will officially open with a launch event on 27 February 2019. Participants may then select any date in March 2019 to spend their work day in a wheelchair.
All CEOs interested in participating in the LITTLE EDEN CEO Wheelchair Campaign, please contact Mary-Anne Wright at firstname.lastname@example.org.