Teenager’s joy at wheelchair gift

2017-01-12 06:01
 Palesa Kwayiba in her new wheelchair with her mother. PHOTO: Ashraf Hendricks

Palesa Kwayiba in her new wheelchair with her mother. PHOTO: Ashraf Hendricks

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On a rainy Friday when GroundUp visited 14-year-old Palesa Kwayiba in her mother’s leaking shack, she was all smiles. She had finally received a new wheelchair.

Palesa has no feeling in her lower body and has lost the use of her legs. She was born healthy and able-bodied, but at three weeks she fell ill and was placed in Red Cross Children’s Hospital. She was then diagnosed with a spinal defect.

Her mother, Zandile Kwayiba, says she has been doing everything in her power to provide for her daughter and her two younger children, but she struggles to work as she needs to nurse Palesa. She depends on social grants.

“There were days when I had to go from house to house around here asking for food because I did not have money to feed my children. Palesa’s father left when he found about Palesa’s condition and I have not heard or seen him since,” says Kwayiba.

“My biggest challenge at the moment is her school transport and wheelchair. She goes to school full time, but lately she has been missing classes because of unreliable transport.”

Palesa’s wheelchair, borrowed from the Tembalethu Special School in Gugulethu which she attends, has seen better days. The rubber on the wheels is perished, the foam stuffing emerges from bust seams, and the backrest is broken.

Tembalethu provides a taxi for children with special needs. Kwayiba pays R250 a month for the transport service, but the taxi does not go into Barcelona informal settlement where the family has been living for 13 years.

“When it rains we cannot go all the way to the road to wait for it,” says Kwayiba.

With her overjoyed mother by her side, who apart from the wheelchair, also showed GroundUp food, nappies and clothing donated to her daughter, Kwayiba said she was extremely happy and thankful to the people who had reached out to her daughter.

“I am so happy and did not expect this overwhelming response. When I got a phone call from the people who wanted to bring me the wheelchair, I didn’t think it would actually happen.

“Then after that, I also got calls from people who wanted to bring Palesa clothes and food. Now we at least have things for this festive season. I am beyond grateful,” said Zandile Kwayiba, Palesa’s mother.

The old wheelchair was ruined and almost unusable in the conditions in Barcelona, the informal settlement where Kwayiba lives with her mother and two younger brothers.

“We are finished with school now until next year. So, I am looking forward to the holidays and spending more time with my family. And, I want to say thank you for everything,” said Kwayiba


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