By Nicolette Gardiner Bosman
“You have not lived today until you have done something for someone who can never repay you.”
– John Bunyan
The Little Eden Society based in Edenvale, Gauteng, has a proud history of caring for children and adults with profound intellectual and physical disabilities. It was founded in 1967 by Domitilla Hyams, a housewife who then had no social work training or funds but recognised a need in the community. With a R10 donation from her husband, Danny, she began taking care of two children in the local Methodist Church hall.
From that small beginning of a daycare facility, an organisation grew to house care facilities for 300 residents; 180 in the Domitilla and Danny Hyams Home in Edenvale and another 120 at the Elvira Rota Village in Bapsfontein. The younger children and those needing intensive medical care, including most of the wheelchair users, live in the home in Edenvale. Older, more mobile residents live on the Elvira Rota 43 ha farm property, where they enjoy the fresh air, animals, and can get involved in farming activities, such as collecting eggs. Before the Covid-19 pandemic, some also helped in the kitchen and laundry.
Caring for and providing the necessary therapies for those they look after requires training, hands-on care, and dedication, and this is provided by a staff of 256 – not quite a one-on-one ratio. At around R12 700 per resident per month, the costs are daunting and fundraising is always a major concern. While government grants are received for many of the residents and some families are also able to contribute something towards care, it is necessary for complementing the Little Eden Society’s income.
Not wanting to rely entirely on community and corporate donations, Little Eden runs several initiatives, such as a busy second-hand charity shop, to add to the grants received for their residents or their “angels” as they refer to them.
The second-hand shop accepts items of clothing, furniture, and bric-a-brac from members of the community and sells them at the shop based at 33 10th Avenue, Edenvale.
Also available at the shop, and another source of income, are the delicious pecan nuts grown in the Elvira Rota orchard. An ideal way for nut lovers to support Little Eden’s work. Go to Buy our products under the Get involved button on the Little Eden website to find out more.
Our core values are encapsulated in a series of symbols that guide the way the staff and volunteers at LITTLE EDEN respond to children and adults with intellectual disability; to each other as staff; to the environment; and to the larger community.
Just because a person has an intellectual disability does not make them less worthy of respect and consideration. We value each person in our care and celebrate their uniqueness.
Sanctity of Life
We believe in the sanctity of life – these special people are precious in the eyes of God and they have a right to be here and to be helped to reach their full potential despite their limitations.
Love and care
We offer our residents love and care … provide for their needs, and protect them from harm.
CEO WHEELCHAIR CHALLENGE CAMPAIGN
One fundraising initiative is the LITTLE EDEN CEO Wheelchair Campaign™, with 2021 being the fourth year it is being run. With so many “angels” using wheelchairs, Little Eden decided to challenge company CEOs to experience the challenges of being wheelchair-bound by spending one working day in March carrying out all their normal activities in a wheelchair. March is Intellectual Disabilities Awareness Month, so this is an appropriate time to hold the Campaign. CEOs of large organisations contribute R50 000 while those of smaller business contribute R30 000. All funds raised go towards the costs of running Little Eden and caring for the resident “angels”.
CEOs of major corporations, such as Discovery’s Adrian Gore, have previously participated in the Campaign.
A target of R1 million has been set for the campaign this year but, fully aware of the financial challenges Covid-19 has presented businesses with, the Little Eden Society is appealing for donations of any size to help the campaign reach this goal. It understands too that with many people working from home, it could be difficult to fulfil the challenge in the participant’s normal working environment.
A word from the Little Eden CEO
I spoke to the Little Eden CEO, Xelda Rohrbeck, to get some first-hand information about the campaign. Fully supporting the campaign, she has participated in it three times and I asked her what the experience had been like for her:
It was a wonderful but humbling experience. I realised how seldom I am on the same level as our residents. We had great fun and they enjoyed it too. I will certainly be taking part again this year.
Although our facilities are wheelchair friendly, going on the path to the wetlands (one of our therapy areas) at the Elvira Rota Centre, I realised how difficult it was to negotiate. I gained additional respect for our staff who push the residents on that path.
With participant numbers expected to be smaller this year, I asked Xelda what plans they had to counter this:
We hope that our previous participants will support us, both with donations and by acting as spokespeople for the Campaign. Awareness of disability is crucial and we will be focusing more on this aspect this year; many people consider physically and intellectually disabled people to be “unworthy” or “less than”. You just need to spend time with one of our residents to realise how unique and very special each one is and how they communicate and express love in different ways.
Our initial communication with the CEOs about the 2021 Campaign could not have anticipated where we would be now, in Lockdown level 3. Our fundraising department will be working hard to communicate with regard to our revised focus.
We appeal to big and small corporates, and the community, to assist us in our role of caring for our “angels”.
Are you the CEO of a company? If funds permit in this economic climate, please consider taking up the challenge of participating or making a donation towards the campaign. Complete the online application or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
For ways in which the community can help, go to the Get involved tab on the website to see how you can help Little Eden in the society’s admirable task:
- Sponsor a birthday party
- Buy Little Eden’s products
- Adopt an “angel”
- And other options
It is my hope that this article inspires people to assist Little Eden. As a wheelchair user myself, I often say that the designers and architects of buildings should get in a wheelchair to experience how navigable, or not, their buildings are. It is a good exercise for anyone to try; you’ll gain respect for those who use wheelchairs daily. Read the blog post Accessible Facilities for the Disabled on Profusion Magazine’s website to find out more about this topic.
Read more on PRO-Care.