Finding New Buildings in the Dust of the Old

The I Can! Merrivale academy near Howick, KZN has been open for almost a year. It is the first agricultural academy in the group and has 6 classes catering for a maximum of 85 learners at full capacity.

The first group of learners, enrolled on Plant Production (NQF level 1) have almost completed their learnership. During the course of this past year they have been introduced to farming practices and have learned how to grow their own vegetables.

It was hard work at the start. The ground had to be prepared for vegetable planting and this involved many hours of weeding, digging, composting, analyzing the soil type and then adding nutrients to improve the quality of the soil. Seeds and seedlings were then planted into open vegetable gardens as well as into the newly erected vegetable tunnel.

In between class work, the learners would put on their gumboots and overalls and then tend to the rapidly growing spinach, carrot, bean and cabbage plants. Competition between groups was tough and a certain amount of bragging was noticed when some plants grew stronger than others. The learners were delighted when they realized that all harvested vegetables were theirs to take home.

We are extremely proud of our agricultural academy. It is a happy place, where you will hear songs in the morning, excited chatter throughout the day and watch a group of learners realize that you can place ABILITY before disability with astonishing results.

Watch us grow!

Rowan Robinson
Manager: Agriculture and Special Projects

Day by day, Bit by bit. My journey with I Can!

As a young girl, I always knew that I would make a difference one day. I didn’t know how, what, or where I would end up; but if there was one thing I was sure of, it was that I would have a happy home and a job that I could be proud of.

Twenty years later I am married to an incredible husband, a group of the greatest supporter-friends, a bubbling little boy that is filling my life with all the shades of love, and a career that I boast about every day.

Before I joined the I Can! family, I worked in the disability sector as a program co-ordinator but I started getting so frustrated with the limited resources available for families affected by disability in the region. I decided to enrich my skills set to do something about it. Together with my number 1 supporter (my husband Charles), we enrolled into a Master’s degree in Business Administration (MBA) with the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University Business School.

In September 2012, just under a year into the degree, I came across I Can! and knew that this was the place for me. I soon joined the company by spearheading the expansion of I Can!’s footprint into the Eastern Cape. Three years later I started academies in Port Elizabeth and East London, employed 15 full time staff members, trained 156 learners, graduated with a MBA degree and birthed a busy baby boy. People say MBA is a divorce course…well, Charles and I ended up “plus one”!

The course not only provided me with so much knowledge and insight on growing and developing a business, it equipped me with essential skills in leadership and managing a diverse team.

One of my team members brought me a note one day with the meaning of my name. It reads “Lauren, you are a believer. Regardless of what other people might think, your faith is your core devotion in life. It’s the one thing inside you that will not change even when your outside changes…”

Nothing else is truer than this. Today I am exactly the person I want to be: I am living exactly the life I had dreamed of as a little girl and day by day, bit by bit, I am making a difference.

I’ll never be able to fully express my gratitude to the management and colleagues at I Can! that have showed belief in me and helped me reach the heights I’m now soaring at.

Forever grateful,
Lauren Butler
Operations Manager: Eastern Cape

It Is Not The End Of The World

My name is Andronica Tshabalala and I am 26 years old.

At the age four I was involved in a fire explosion that took place in my granny’s house in Daveyton. I was seriously injured in my eye, and ever since that day I have lost my vision in my right eye. My life has been so difficult since then, living with a blind eye – it has not been easy.

When I went to public hospital seeking for help, they recommended an optometrist. Unfortunately I could not go due to financial constraints.

I use eye drops daily to reduce the pain, but sometimes the eye drops do not help at all. Despite this I thank God that I am still alive.

If it was not for I Can!, I don’t know where I would be. I am very blessed that I Can! came into my life and made me feel important, loved and appreciated.

I am very honoured to work at CIMSSA. I am now a permanent employee, working as a Receptionist. Management is treating me well and empowering me by sending me to trainings and paying for my studies.

All I can say is that I was blessed to be introduced to I Can!, they have done their best to help people living with disabilities.

Andronica Tshabalala
Receptionist and Learner

Khulisani mobile IT Centre

In 2012 Khulisani launched an innovative mobile IT project in partnership with an international communications company, to assist with computer instruction/training for people with disabilities living near the Vereeniging area in Gauteng. The focus – as always – was on the upliftment of individuals with disabilities. The project has run for its projected 3 years, and we are now looking for a new corporate sponsorship to help continue with this successful initiative.

We had identified Vereeniging as a suitable project-site after conducting research into the needs of the disabled community there. We advertised and engaged an IT trainer (who happened to also have a disability) and driver, and customised the training accordingly.

Khulisani purchased a Toyota Quantum van, took out the seats and created the space needed to install workstations for 6 laptops. In order to accommodate the different disabilities which each of the learners experience, we researched (and identified) different computer teaching methodologies, illustrative software (English and Afrikaans, poor to good literacy), wheelchair ramps, and suitable seating on board. The vehicle was branded according to the sponsoring clients’ specifications, creating an ideal marketing opportunity for them. Our endeavours ensured a positive outcome for all stake holders involved in the project.

By investing in this mobile IT Unit, we have been able to offer much needed computer skills and training to children and young adults living with disabilities in the Vereeniging area.

Our present objective is to continue offering this important service. To do so, we need to find a suitable sponsor who would benefit from participating in this wonderful opportunity. The sponsor would contribute with funding by using ED or SED spend. The potential sponsor could brand the vehicle according to their needs, and thereby create a unique marketing opportunity in the region of operation.

If you would like to learn more about this project, or think that it may be something which your company could support please call us: 031 5630507.

All other contact details available on our website: www.khulisani.co.za

Rachael Erskine
National Operations Manager – Khulisani

Focus on sight impairment

Khulisani Logo

In light of this month’s newsletter- focus on sight impairment, Khulisani would like to feature one of our new workers: Bhekumusa Shezi.
Bhekumusa attended our Durban North Business Practice learnership between 2013 and 2014. Having had two years at university, he completed the course with flying colours and found it to be stimulating and gratifying.

Being considered legally blind (though he does have some sight) Bhekumusa has overcome his disability by ‘working hard, and being focused on completing well what he has been given to do’ – evidence of this is deciding to run, and then running, the NYC marathon!

Khulisani has recently been given the contract to employ 28 workers for BHP. On behalf of BHP, Khulisani places these workers in suitable host sites where they will develop skills, get work experience, and help institutions who are desperate for assistance, but have limited resources to pay employees. Host sites where we have placed workers include: LIV Village, Durban Children’s Home, and Domino’s Children Home, and Domino’s soup kitchen.

Bhekumusa has been employed by Khulisani at Domino’s growing tunnels, where our workers grow vegetables which in turn are used to make soup which feeds 1 500 local residents from the local (Phoenix) community each day.

Despite his disability, Bhekumusa immediately took on a supervisory role – seeing the bigger picture of what the work entailed, and how valuable the teams’ work is in the community. He catches a taxi each morning (members of his community know him, and know to tell him when his taxi is coming/ when he needs to get off) and ensures that the site-manager shows him (in detail) each morning where he needs to work, and what needs to be done.

Bhekumusa’s motivation is to work to help support his family, and says that he will do anything and overcome any obstacle in order to achieve this objective.
Thank you BHP for affording people with disabilities the opportunity of meaningful employment while helping others who are less fortunate.

Bhekumusa, with the rest of the Khulisani team working at Domino’s growing tunnels. Bhekumusa is last on the RHS.

Rachael Erskine
Operations Manager – Khulisani

Visual Impairment and Blindness

The story by Sibongile Mazibuko: a learner with visual impairment

My story:

My name is Sibongile, a person living with visual impairment. I am a confident and loving person. I was born with visual impairment, the condition became worse as I grow. Currently I am studying towards the Business Practice Qualification at the BraamPark academy, in Braamfontein Johannesburg.

I have a severe visual impairment from childhood which caused me to use assistant devices to live a normal life. The use of the device helped me to function as normal and get involved in any activities that a non-disable person will do.

I had to learn and develop different skills such a mobility, which helps me with getting around places e.g. shopping centre, my house, the academy and learning the routes to and from different venues. The other skill that I had to learn is the use of money sticks, the devise helps me to differentiate kinds of moneys that is notes and coins. I have installed a “Jaws” software on my computer and my watch. The use of a walking sticks helps me to feel my way around. I believe I would have not have grown in confidence to achieve what I have accomplished; if it is was not of the support of family, trainer and community.

Although these devices are available, however they are not affordable and not easily accessible. My plea and wish to our government is to help to subsidize these devices so they could be easily accessible and affordable to all who might needs them. A person with visual impairment or blindness tends to depend on other senses: that is one’s hearing, smell and touch/feel sense. By developing these senses it helps one to move around know what is happening around, above and below them.

 

I have learned to depend a lot on my hearing sense, this helps me to learn things, and remember things. It is important for me to advocate for people with disability. The campaign is to empower people to look beyond the disability when working or communicating with persons with disabilities.

The objective of my story is to inspire people and to educate people on disability, in my case visual impairment or Blindness. I hope to bring light and awareness to the community, that a blind or visually impaired person can live a normal life if they are supported and are surrounded by people who care for them.

 

Sibongile Mazibuko

I Can! Learner (Braampark academy)

Louis Braille (1809-1852)

Six dots. Six bumps. Six bumps in different patterns, like constellations, spreading out over the page. What are they?

Numbers, letters, words. Who made this code? None other than Louis Braille,a French 12-year-old, who was also blind. And his work changed the world of reading and writing, forever.

Louis was from a small town called Coupvray, near Paris — he was born on January 4 in 1809. Louis became blind by accident, when he was 3 years old. Deep in his Dad’s harness workshop, Louis tried to be like his Dad, but it went very wrong; he grabbed an awl, a sharp tool for making holes, and the tool slid and hurt his eye. The wound got infected, and the infection spread, and soon, Louis was blind in both eyes.

All of a sudden, Louis needed a new way to learn. He stayed at his old school for two more years, but he couldn’t learn everything just by listening. Things were looking up when Louis got a scholarship to the Royal Institution for Blind Youth, in Paris, when he was 10. But even there, most of the teachers just talked at the students. The library had 14 huge books with raised letters that were very hard to read. Louis was impatient.

Then in 1821, a former soldier named Charles Barbier visited the school. Barbier shared his invention called “night writing,” a code of 12 raised dots that let soldiers share top-secret information on the battlefield without even having to speak. Unfortunately, the code was too hard for the soldiers, but not for 12-year-old Louis!

Louis trimmed Barbier’s 12 dots into 6, ironed out the system by the time he was 15, then published the first-ever braille book in 1829. But did he stop there? No way! In 1837, he added symbols for math and music. But since the public was skeptical, blind students had to study braille on their own. Even at the Royal Institution, where Louis taught after he graduated, braille wasn’t taught until after his death. Braille began to spread worldwide in 1868, when a group of British men, now known as the Royal National Institute for the Blind, took up the cause.

Now practically every country in the world uses braille. Braille books have double-sided pages, which saves a lot of space. Braille signs help blind people get around in public spaces. And, most important, blind people can communicate independently, without needing print.

Louis proved that if you have the motivation, you can do incredible things.

http://acelebrationofwomen.org/2012/12/braille-is-this-centurys-brilliance/

05 December 2012

A Celebration of Women ™

Nystagmus – a Mom’s journey

My daughter Ruby is visually impaired.  She has a congenital eye disorder called Nystagmus which is characterised by uncontrollable eye movement and lack of visual acuity.  She is a feisty little girl who does not let her disability hamper her in any way! However, like all mothers I want what is best for her so I am on a mission to understand her world, as well as provide help where it can be.  In my research I have come across some findings that I think will be of use to ICAN! when dealing with your visually impaired learners.   You should also note that most people with Albinism also have Nystagmus.  To enhance their learning process I would suggest these very simple interventions:

  • Good lighting is very important. All visually impaired people need good lighting but they can also be light sensitive so it has to be done carefully.  Many visually impaired people bring lighting specialists into their home
  • A person with Nystagmus sees differently at different angles (and this differs from person to person); the facilitator would need to work closely and discreetly with the learner to find out from which place in the classroom they see best.  They will always need to sit in the front but it may work better for them, for example, to sit on the left side of the facilitator
  • A visually impaired learner may be able to see normal size font but looking at it for a long period of time will be tiring for them.   They should be given additional time when needed
  • If they are comfortable with the idea, large print is better than small font
  • There are different variations of Nystagmus.  Ruby is able to look at me straight in the eye but many people with Nystagmus are unable to look at someone in the eye because their eye movement is so rapid.  So, when it looks like they are not listening they actually are
  • A person with Nystagmus often has a head tilt or shake – this is normal and it is the brain telling the eyes what position they should be at to have maximum vision
  • Many Nystagmus sufferers are colour blind

I happened to be assessing work done by a learner at a time when we just had just found out about the extent of Ruby’s lack of visual acuity.  His Portfolio of Evidence had large font and I was interested to meet him.  It turned out that he has Nystagmus as well as a very noticeable head tilt.  As you can imagine the head tilt is uncomfortable and leads to headaches and back pains.  What he did not know is that for people who have Nystagmus and a head tilt there is a simple operation than can improve visual acuity by about 30%. When your vision is minimal this would be a huge improvement. The good news is that this procedure is offered in our state hospitals.

I am currently working with another mother of a child, to understand Nystagmus. We want to create a charity where we raise money for Nystagmus research but also create an awareness around the interventions that are currently available.  When we get to this stage I hope that we can share information with ICAN! learners.

Hope this helps!  It’s amazing how things work out – I never knew when I joined ICAN! that my daughter’s eyes were so compromised. Now our journey together will hopefully benefit others by knowledge gained and shared.

 

Louise Carlyle-Mitchell

Assessor/Moderator/Mother

BLIND SCHOOL LEADS IN THE EASTERN CAPE

Khanyisa School (which means light) was established in the 1980’s to cater for partially sighted and blind pupils. The school accommodates locals in the area that live in Transkei, Ciskei and as far as Mthatha. The Dormitories of the school cater for up to 60 pupils, who come from all parts of the Eastern Cape. Situated in Kwa-dwesi there is so much warmth when one enters the doors of this school.

The school has managed to play a pivotal role in the lives of their matriculants. One learner in particular is Pelisa Mkwambi, who has partial vision in her right eye. Regardless of her obstacles, she is the top matriculant for special schools in the Eastern Cape. Pelisa managed to achieve four distinctions. She received prizes which include a certificate, trophy, cellphone and a bursary to the value of R80 000. She will be studying towards a diploma in Business Studies at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU). Her sight disability has in no way prohibited her from achieving her goals.

One of her educators Mrs Kepe commented that Pelisa is a very dedicated pupil and she puts a lot of effort to her work. She always asked her educators a lot of questions!

The school encourages school pupils to also participate in extra mural activities, including judo, karate, athletics and goal ball for the blind. They also have cultural activities such as drama which the learners really enjoy. Mr Msutwana is a professional singer and he teaches music to the pupils and is a conductor of the choir.

The Principal is very proud of Pelisa and says it is all thanks to her great team of educators that held special classes for the matriculants. The HOD of Khanyisa also played a pivotal role by ensuring everything runs smoothly within the school. The staff are very supportive of the learners, which in turn results in producing top achieving individuals.

 

Lauren Butler

Operations Manager – E Cape

ACSA DISABILITY TRADE AND LIFESTYLE EXPO

DisabilityExpo
DISABILITY TRADE AND LIFESTYLE EXPO

“Break Barriers, Open Doors: for an Inclusive Society for all” is the theme of the United Nations’ International Day of Persons with Disabilities on 3 December 2013 – an event dedicated to celebrating the experience and capabilities of people with disabilities  to acknowledge and better their lives. With similar goals, the ACSA Disability Trade and Lifestyle Exhibition and Conference last month in Johannesburg showcased how people with disabilities can live independent and productive lives if they have access to the right resources.

“Careers for people with disabilities” was the overriding theme for the Expo. Designed to allow a full range of South African companies and organizations, including I Can!, to offer recruiting opportunity for people with disabilities as well as allowing suppliers to present and promote their products . There were more than a dozen fun activities and entertainment events including wheelchair tennis and basketball, curdling, wall climbing, archery and a pop concert.

This annual event attracts more than 2,000 visitors and is the only public showcase on the African continent where people with any kind of disability, their caregivers, families and friends can find the manufacturers, distributors, suppliers and service providers that offer products and services necessary to empower and improve the quality of life for persons with disabilities.

The conference objectives is to provide a platform for people with disabilities to engage with like-minded individuals, groups and stakeholders, express themselves and explore the enhancement of environments inside and outside the living and working spaces of people with disabilities.