THE elderly and children at risk in the northern suburbs have a new champion who will see that their needs are met. Open Hands, a registered non-profit organisation, was established in November 2017 by Gerald Leander, and its main objective is to assist senior citizens, as well as youth affected by drug use.“Our mission is twofold. We assist the elderly – especially those who are bedridden or who have difficulty with moving around. “And we also go to schools to talk to teenagers about the dangers of drugs. When youngsters are suspected of being involved with drugs, they get referred to us by their parents or the school. “We take further steps with counselling,” Leander said.Open Hands consists of a team of five and has an office at the medical practice of Dr Soondra Appavoo in Salsoneville. Appavoo supports the organisation and also offers his medical expertise when drug testing is required.Leander founded the organisation after realising the need for support to the most vulnerable in the community.“Some senior citizens need the help of a caregiver but do not have the means to pay the salary for a full-time careworker. “If they register with our organisation, we will assist them to apply for grant-in-aid from Sassa and arrange for a careworker through Famhealth.”The grant-in-aid is for people who live on a social grant but who cannot look after themselves. When registered with the organisation, a small portion from this grant is paid to Open Hands for the careworker.According to Leander, the other portion of this grant goes into a fund for a private ambulance. “It often happens that there are no state ambulances available so we keep this fund to be able to use the services of a private ambulance when needed,” Leander explained. “We know what it’s like to have to wait for hours for an ambulance so this access to a private ambulance gives our members peace of mind.”The team is also in the process of getting permission to collect registered senior citizens’ medication from the clinic in their area.Open Hands is open from 09:00 to 12:00 on Mondays to Thursdays and on Saturdays. They can be contacted on 061 088 0811.