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Backabuddy – where cause meets crowd

16 April 2019

Volunteer, Vusi Masinga. Image supplied by BackaBuddy

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 income.

“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 Manguzi”.

“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.”

About BackaBuddy:

BackaBuddy is a proudly South African crowdfunding platform where individuals have the opportunity to raise funds for causes they feel passionate about. BackaBuddy has raised over R97.9 million for various charities, individuals and causes across South Africa.

Website: https://www.backabuddy.co.za/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BackabuddySA

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