July 15, 2024

Beiersdorf & Thanda staff with Thanda ECD children on CARE BEYOND SKIN DAY

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One in six people is estimated to have a disability of some form.  Sadly, there is a lack of statistics available to indicate the severity of the situation, which in turn makes it challenging to heighten awareness and get support for those who need it most.

Nestled on the KwaZulu-Natal south coast, Thanda Community Centre continues to be a beacon of hope and empowerment for thousands of children, and in partnership with Beiersdorf, (NIVEA) has developed an inclusion programme for children with disabilities.

In 2015, the partnership between Thanda and Beiersdorf commenced with the design and build of six Early Childhood Development (ECD) classrooms.  In 2019, both NIVEA and Thanda identified a critical need in the community to reach children with disabilities.

“It was our dream to be in a position to support these children and their families, and make a positive difference,” said Thanda Founder, Angela Larkan.  “The children’s disabilities include Down syndrome, ASD (Autistic Spectrum Disorder), cerebral palsy, epilepsy, and hemiplegia,” she said.

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“We commissioned a local inclusion specialty organisation, Siyakwazi, to assist us in consulting with these children and their families.  The inclusion programme officially started in 2020 with five children,” said Larkan.

Since 2020, Thanda has positively impacted the lives of 41 children and 59 primary caregivers, through the Inclusion Programme. These children are supported through home visits and therapy programmes facilitated by locally trained inclusion assistants.

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Specific goals and interventions are developed for each child, which are refined during occupational therapy and speech and language therapy. The focus is on exercises that can be done at home and school, with primary caregivers playing a key role at home, utilising therapists’ expertise on an ongoing, daily basis.

“Raising awareness in the community to support children with disabilities and their families was key. As a result, primary caregiver participation improved significantly after one year, and there was more awareness and understanding in the community about the children’s needs and how to support them,” said Larkan.

Through NIVEA funding, Thanda provides assisted devices such as wheelchairs and hearing aids.  Thanda also assists guardians in applying for disability grants.

Every programme Thanda implements is deeply interconnected—by working with individuals, children, households, and community neighbourhoods. Thubelihle Mbhele’s story serves as a prime example of this approach. Despite facing extreme barriers due to hemiplegia, 17-year-old Thubelihle found purpose and joy in the Gogos Arts and Crafts Programme.

Thubelihle, a 17-year old who is part of Thanda’s Inclusion Programme beading with the Gogos of Thanda

“Thubelihle’s life has been enriched by the gentle art of beading, guided by the skilled hands and warm hearts of elderly artisans. In our rural community of Mtwalume, where opportunities for these children are limited, the collaboration of our inclusion programme with our Gogos Arts and Crafts Programme has opened new doors of possibility. He sees the potential this skill has in helping him realise his dreams while making a living and becoming more independent as he enters early adulthood,” said Larkan.

Thubelihle, a 17-year old who is part of the Thanda Inclusion Programme

“Thanda’s Inclusion Programme is well aligned with Beiersdorf’s sustainability agenda, CARE BEYOND SKIN, which seeks to enhance inclusivity within society and achieve sustainable advancements in environmental and social protection.  It’s been so rewarding to see the programme flourish and change lives,” said Carla Rowe, Beiersdorf South Africa’s CSR Manager.

Beiersdorf South Africa recently celebrated the global annual CARE BEYOND SKIN Day with over 100 staff members participating in a variety of activities.

“In 2023, Beiersdorf implemented its first-ever global volunteering day, CARE BEYOND SKIN Day, an initiative that involved over 10,000 employees volunteering at over 100 local and global charity organisations in 68 countries. Employees worldwide are given the opportunity to devote one workday to supporting various social and environmental projects.  We are thrilled that our South Africa team volunteered again at Thanda, a community that is so close to our hearts.” said Godwin Harrison, Managing Director of Beiersdorf Southern Africa.

“A highlight was the collaboration with the Gogo Arts and Crafts team to create weighted blankets, vests, and sensory dolls as resources for the children in the inclusion programme,” said Harrison.

Submitted: Tynago Communications

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