Buddies thank city doctor

2009-03-03 00:00

Dr Johan Ackerman has won himself buddies for life by helping Sphamandla Mazibuko (18), a close friend of Edendale Primary School’s Soul Buddy club.

Maxillo-facial surgeon Ackerman was yesterday ambushed with hugs and kisses by a group of grateful pupils who came to say thank you.

Mazibuko developed a tumour in his mouth, which has caused his lips to protrude beyond his chin.

An orphan and only child, he lives with his foster mother. He only went as far as grade 2 in school and had no friends because of his condition. However, the buddies have changed all that.

They have been playing and laughing with Mazibuko — and drawing attention to his plight to get him the medical help he needs.

Teacher Sibongile Nkosi started the Soul Buddy club last year. The buddies have since been actively involved in helping children in their community.

Nkosi said the buddies learnt of Mazibuko’s condition when Mawini Zulu, another teacher at the school, brought a picture of him to them. “They [the buddies]were the ones who came up with the idea of going to the newspaper to try and get help for Sphamandla. We are just here to facilitate,” she said.

“This experience has helped the children to grow. It has made them see that they have a place in society and that their word goes a long way. This is a great example that what they do makes a difference and that they can be great leaders someday.”

Pupil Mfundo Ngubo said being a buddy is about helping others and solving problems.

Asked if he would have been friends with Mazibuko before joining the Soul Buddy club, he said he wouldn’t have. Now Mazibuko is his friend and buddies don’t laugh at each other, he added.

An emotional Ackerman said he felt embarrassed about the gift of towels and handkerchiefs the children had brought him, since he didn’t deserve it.

“I have a feeling for people and all I did was point Sphamandla in the right direction and follow up on his progress. But I’m touched and appreciate the gesture. This will remain close to my heart forever.”

Nkosi said that if all doctors put God first and people’s health before profit, society would be a better place.

“He [Ackerman] used his car to drive Sphamandla and Miss Zulu to see a specialist in Pretoria.

They all slept at his sister’s house. And afterwards he flew him to Cape Town.”

She thanked The Witness, St John’s Diocesan School for Girls, Esigodini Roman Catholic Church and other contributors for their assistance.

Ackerman said he has spoken to Mazibuko’s doctor at Grey’s Hospital, who said he is doing well on treatment to shrink the tumour.

“I think the extra help we are busy organising in terms of social work and occupational therapy will be the cherry on top,” he said.

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