Visually impaired SA boy beats odds to win writing competition

2016-03-02 11:44
Joel Greek stands in front of his school's banner. The 12-year-old will hopefully be heading to New York next week. (Photo supplied)

Joel Greek stands in front of his school's banner. The 12-year-old will hopefully be heading to New York next week. (Photo supplied)

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Cape Town – A 12-year-old boy from Kuils River who has spent his life in and out of hospitals has beaten the odds to win an international writing competition that will see him going on his first overseas trip.

Joel Greek’s 500-word essay on the topic of ‘Share Peace’ was picked over entries from children in about 100 other countries.

The event was organised by Lions Clubs International, a charitable organisation that focuses on working with visually impaired people.  

“It is unbelievable. It means so much for the school and the pupils. We didn’t expect it,” said Barbara Davis from Joel’s school, the Athlone School for the Blind.

Joel is only the second South African to win the prize.

The bright and history-loving boy, who is blind in one eye, wrote his piece in just one day, his mother said.

Joel has optic glaucoma, a degenerative condition that was a result of a brain tumour when he was just 6 months old and saw him go for chemotherapy.

- Health24: Glaucoma

Doctors didn’t think he would make it past the age of 1.

He beat the odds but has still had to live with tumours all of his young life. Just last year, around the time when he had to submit his entry to the competition, he had been hospitalised for a few days because doctors discovered another tumour.

“It is difficult, but we are Christians,” Joel’s mother, Inge Greek, told News24.

“It is a privilege to be his mother. He has achieved way more than I ever expected!”

Greek said she was just 21 when Joel was born and later diagnosed, and had to put aside “all dreams for myself”.

The Kuils River mother had high praise for Joel’s medical team at Tygerberg Hospital, saying that if they had not diagnosed him when he was a baby, he might very well not be alive today.

Though it’s been tough for Greek, who has raised her son on her own, as his father is based in another province, she said it’s been completely worth it.   

“He wants to become a historian. He knows about Anne Frank, Mandela, Helen Keller...” Greek says excitedly. Sometimes Joel stays up late into the night watching videos online about historical figures.

Joel and his mother will hopefully be travelling to New York next Wednesday, March 9. It’ll be a close call for the two as he hasn’t yet received his passport from the Department of Home Affairs, which he needs in order to apply for his visa.

Three days later, Joel is due to receive his award and prize money of $5 000 (more than R75 000) at the United Nations headquarters.

The trip will also be his mother’s first one overseas.

“If it weren’t for him, I wouldn’t be going!

“I always told him he would change the world,” she said.

Read more on:    cape town  |  good news

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