Maureen Davids

Despite the disruptions of Covid-19, SPAR Eastern Cape sponsorship and events manager Alan Stapleton struck a humble figure as he reflected on another successful Wheelchair Wednesday campaign yesterday.

In a year when the initiative celebrated its 10th anniversary, the giant retailer again linked hands with the Association for Persons with Physical Disabilities (APD) in Nelson Mandela Bay to make a difference in the community.

Initially targeting the donation of wheelchairs, the project has spread its wings to include the Amputee Support Group (ASG) and Nkosinathi Foundation for the Visually Impaired, raising awareness on a range of fronts.

Stapleton acknowledged the challenges of the past two years, but said he was both “humbled and proud” at what had been achieved.

“I am humbled because despite the issues we have faced we have seen another 200 people receive wheelchairs to be freed from their immobility,” he said at the official handover at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium.

He said they were released into a world where they could contribute and, most importantly, have their dignity restored.

“I’m also humbled that another 100 people have been exposed to living life in a wheelchair, even if for only 67 minutes. It is a life-changing experience.

“I have been privileged to collaborate with an amazing team from APD. Robbed five times during Covid, plans often had to be postponed, but they never let up.”

Maureen Davids

Maureen Davids, from Arcadia, was donated a wheelchair from this year’s Wheelchair Wednesday campaign. With her during the annual handover at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium yesterday were, from left, NMB council member for public health Thsonono Buyeye, her daughter Diona Fillis and granddaughter Destiny, APD executive director Cecilia Fourie and SPAR sponsorship and events manager Alan Stapleton. Photo: Leon Hugo

Stapleton added that there were plenty of reasons to be satisfied.

“Despite so many cancelled events, we are proud that we were still able to roll out the Wheelchair Wednesday programme.

“We are proud that while we could not honour Nelson Mandela at the planned launch of Wheelchair Wednesday 2021, we still honoured him by reducing the time spent in a chair to 67 minutes.

He said that “in a time of no hugging” SPAR EC was proud to welcome and embrace the Amputee Support Group and Nkosinathi Foundation for the Visually Impaired.

Another milestone, he added, was to take the campaign beyond the Nelson Mandela metro with a day at SPAR Dagbreek in Kirkwood.

“Hopefully, in 2022, we will spread the word even further into the rural towns around the Eastern Cape.”

APD executive director Cecilia Fourie said evidence of another successful campaign came in reaching their targets this year.

“We donated 200 wheelchairs through the Network of Caring organisation. Besides the metro, we also provided chairs in towns such as Kirkwood, East London, Makhanda and Jeffreys Bay.

“In 10 years, we have donated 1 400 chairs and have seen 2 500 participants, largely from corporates, raising awareness for the project.”

Awareness has been a constant theme and ASG chairperson Brian Paddey said being part of the programme had helped.

“This year, we have collected 21 pairs of crutches and four walkers from the participating SPAR stores and donated them to the orthotic and prosthetic workshop at Provincial Hospital.

“It is beneficial for us to be part of Wheelchair Wednesday because we can see that public awareness is increasing.”

Nkosinathi Foundation resource development officer Anne-Marie Stephenson said they were grateful to be “on board of the shared awareness platform” for the first time.

Wheelchair Wednesday participants wore simulator glasses to provide greater understanding of how visually impaired people live.

“One of the participants said he now understood what his father, who is waiting for a cataract operation, is going through,” said Stephenson. “He said that this was an eye-opener for him as his father never complained.”

The awareness boosted traction on their various platforms, she confirmed.

“We have seen an increase in orders for our social enterprise sewing project for visually impaired people and parents of visually impaired children.”

From this year’s campaign, the foundation was able to buy 50 canes for blind people from poor communities in the Eastern Cape.

“These are critical in ensuring rehabilitative orientation and continued, safe mobility of people who have lost their sight,” explained Stephenson.

“Canes are customised to suit the age and size of individuals and need to be purchased accordingly.”