Wheelchair-bound PE businessman inspires young minds

2015-05-27 06:00
Bartho de Vries demonstrates how to “pop a wheelie” at Summerwood Primary School’s assembly on Wednesday.

Bartho de Vries demonstrates how to “pop a wheelie” at Summerwood Primary School’s assembly on Wednesday. PHOTO: OLIVIA LEMERCIER

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A PORT Elizabeth businessman is inspiring young minds to overcome challenges by visiting schools to talk about disabilities during Disability Awareness Month, which is May.

Bartho de Vries, the owner of Blue Waters Cafe, spoke to pupils at Summerwood Primary School at their assembly recently.

De Vries, who is wheelchair-bound after a car accident when he was 23 years old, was invited as part of The Hope Jones Foundation’s Disability Awareness Month.

The Hope Jones Foundation is a Port Elizabeth NGO launched in February, 2013, to enable and empower children with physical and mental disabilities.

De Vries started by asking who was good at hockey, then who wasn’t good at the sport. Through this, he demonstrated that everyone has something they’re not good at. “I’m not good at walking,” he explained.

Despite this, he has proven everyone wrong by being fully independent and going as far as owning his own business. What he did not add was that he is one of the Top 40 under 40 Mandela Bay Achievers for 2015.

“I overcame a lot of challenges, and you can too, whether it’s maths or hockey or anything else,” he stressed. Trying harder and never giving up is his motto.

“Don’t laugh at those who may not be good at something, or who may be physically disabled. Being in a wheelchair does not make them stupid or funny; it just means they use things differently,” De Vries said. “I do wheelies, jump down steps, go bungee jumping, skydive and scuba diving … I might look different but I have gone and done what you have done,” he said.

De Vries said being different just made one unique and special, not weird. “I like that I’m different. The key is to embrace the difference and practise harder if need be. Look at the challenges you face and say ‘I’ll try harder’. Don’t forget to look at the things you do have and be grateful for them,” he said.

Every year, The Hope Jones Foundation has a Disability Awareness Month. During this month, Port Elizabeth schools that are part of the Foundation’s ABC4DBC Ambassador Programme (Able-Bodied Children championing the cause of Disabled-Bodied Children) are either given wheelchairs or visited by an inspirational speaker like De Vries.

Last year the schools were each given a wheelchair and pupils were encouraged to sit in it for two hours at a time to feel what it is like being wheelchair-bound

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