Charity: Opkyk Pathways Therapy and Education Centre
41 year old, Brits-born, Santie Kotze, was placed as the Remedial Educator at Opkyk Pathways Therapy and Education Centre through the Vodacom Change the World initiative from April 2011 to March 2012. The organisation strives to educate and give voices to children living with severe physical and mental disabilities that prevent them from communicating. Santie joined Opkyk Pathways to give these a voice through the use of Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) methods.
People within the Brits community with physical and mental disabilities were identified and assessed and custom-made material was developed and implemented according to their abilities, allowing many to communicate for the first time. “People who cannot communicate are simply regarded as mentally retarded and rejected from society. Yet, the hunger to be loved and accepted is still there. Living without a voice denies them their identity and it has given me such joy to see the difference made in the lives of the individuals and their families when they are able to communicate. It gives them a greater sense of independence, too, as they can go shopping and function within the community. Hundreds of families in the community are being reached through AAC and we have also shared our knowledge and material as far afield as Namibia and Ghana. Only the foundations have been laid as the material is constantly developing and facilitators, teachers and families need to be trained in the communication process. Moreover, there are still so many out there who need to be reached and deserve to be given a voice,” says Santie.
When her Vodacom CtW placement came to an end, Santie stayed on with the organisation full time for three months and thereafter has been assisting at the Centre once or twice a week. She has returned to work in the private sector, working in the property industry as well as making furniture. In addition, she volunteers at a soup kitchen at a local primary school. “Vodacom Change the World made me a stronger person. I learnt more about myself, how to handle pressure and how to think out of the box. I was given the tools to continue to make a difference. I learnt that no matter how many projects you’re involved with, value is only seen if you’re doing it for the right reasons and if your heart is in it,” concludes Santie.