Last week some incredible young disabled swimmers were given the gift of new wheels by the “Service above Self” team at Rotary Northcliff. The match between the deserving swimmers and the generous team at Rotary was made by Megan Hunt, a grade 9 learner at Bryanston High School and winner of the Rotary public speaking competition two years ago. This competition introduced her to the amazing wheelchair programme sponsored by Rotary.
The recipients of the new wheels are truly an inspirational group. TK and David are bona fide rock stars in the world of swimming. Where, despite their significant physical challenges, they impress the best swimmers in the country with their courage, determination and swimming ability. Under the guidance of their swimming coach Tadhg Slattery, a Paralympic swimmer himself and also a recipient of a new wheelchair, they hope to make waves in the swimming world.
All of them visited Dave Woodhouse from Northcliff Rotary to fit their new wheels.
TK and David attend the Hope School, a school for the physically disabled. Says Physiotherapist at the Hope School, Kerri-Ann Ramessar, “David and TK are two of our top performing learners, both academically and in their extra-murals, which include swimming and debating. We are very proud of all their achievements and appreciate the assistance given by Megan and Dave from Rotary. It makes a huge difference in their lives.”
Takudzwa Mutirikidi, known as TK, lives in Cosmo City, Randburg, with his family. He is a para swimmer, portrait artist and loves maths.
Says TK, “I love my school – it has such wonderful teachers and therapists. I’m a breaststroke swimmer, and when I am in the water the pool is my playground. Training relieves any stress I have and gives me time to think and balance my school work when I’m under pressure. I am very passionate about swimming, and one day I hope to be a Paralympic swimmer just like my swimming coach Tadhg Slattery.”
David McKlopper is from Toekomsrus in Randfontein and currently a grade 12 learner at the Hope School. At birth David was diagnosed with Phocomelia and as a result does not have fully-formed arms and legs.
His passions include debating (in which he has been placed in the top three in various competitions), playing video games and swimming. David loves public speaking and criminal law and is working towards a career in those fields.
“My family, my mum Sarunisa, my dad Julius, my sister Junice and my niece Khiara, support me in everything I do and help me reach my dreams and goals. They are the reason I work so hard to achieve everything I set out to do. I have been on many talk shows for people with physical disabilities, and this has made me more passionate about educating people about living with a disability. I don’t see myself as being disabled, but rather as being differently abled. My ultimate dream is to become a world-famous Paralympian.”
According to Dave Woodhouse from Northcliff Rotary “The wheelchair project is one of the most successful and long-running initiatives undertaken by Rotary. It began in 1993 and is still going strong today. The original idea took hold after members realised that there was an urgent need for wheelchairs in the Johannesburg area.”
The call for wheelchairs was sent out and Rushmoor Rotary in the United Kingdom took up the cause. Wheelchairs were collected from agencies such as the Red Cross and national health hospitals which had been storing old wheelchairs in depots across southern England. The first consignment of 56 wheelchairs arrived, courtesy of Swiss Air. Thereafter, wheelchairs were dispatched by sea.
When they arrive, Northcliff Rotary collects the wheelchairs and distributes them countrywide through affiliated Rotary clubs in other districts. More than 37,000 wheelchairs have been provided to worthy recipients across South Africa, totally free of charge.
This project would not be viable if it weren’t for the donations from Rushmoor Rotary Club, Physionet UK, Erlangen Rotary Club Germany and from our sponsors FEM.
Bryanston High School is actively involved in the collection of plastic bottle lids that eventually get exchanged for wheelchairs with Rotary. Their student Megan Hunt, a dedicated swimmer too, has already arranged wheelchairs for other deserving recipients. She is inspired by the American activist and writer Maya Angelou who famously said, “I have learnt that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
Says Dave from Rotary, “We hope that the donation of these specialized wheelchairs will make their lives a little easier and inspire these amazing athletes to reach their dreams to one day compete successfully for South Africa at the Para-Olympic Games.”
The Hope School, based in Westcliff Johannesburg, caters to learners with physical disabilities, all of whom are capable of completing matric and going to university.