Disabled value their dignity

THE greatest challenge for disabled people is to muster enough energy and courage to overcome self-pity and despair.

Phila Nyandeni of KwaThema, Springs, had to face this challenge after a car accident dramatically changed his life by leaving him paralysed.

Not one to wallow in self-pity, Nyandeni accepted his fate and decided to make major adjustments to his life. So began his journey as a disabled person.

He soon realised that this was not going to be easy . There were many other people like himself in the Ekurhuleni area who faced similar difficulties and were not keen to hold out a begging bowl to the public. Like most able-bodied people the disabled cherish their dignity.

And that is how the Disabled People of Kwa-Thema (DPKT), a day care centre for people with multiple disabilities, was born in 1997.

Last week Mama Angel took groceries to the centre.

To affirm the area's disabled individuals with self-belief and self-reliance, they coined the slogan "Disabled, not unable" as the organisation's mantra.

"People with disabilities also want to be included in the labour market. There just aren't enough opportunities for them. They are in a vulnerable position," says Nyandeni, the organisation's chief executive.

Nyandeni is passionate about empowering people with disabilities.

"My biggest dream since my accident was to be seen as an equal," he explains.

The nonprofit organisation is aimed at promoting the interests and protecting the rights of people with disabilities. The project is run from a six-room house and provides comfort and care for 54 members.

There are five volunteers and a few other able-bodied people who help run the office.

"Instead of being dependent on people and grants, we rely on our own skills and talents to see us through," Nyandeni says.

Members pay R90 a month, which covers the organisation' s basic running costs. This includes two meals a day .

"We run a range of programmes that have been specially designed to empower our members as well as our communities with skills and knowledge to address unemployment and alleviate poverty."

The project also provides home care for people who are too ill to come to the centre.

Other activities include recycling, food gardening, art and beadwork, silk-screen printing, sewing and embroidery.

Wares produced are sold to schools, churches, burial clubs and at ward meetings and at pension pay points.

The money generated from sales is ploughed back into the project to help sustain it. Nyandeni believes DPKT's biggest success has been its ability to provide a respectable livelihood for disabled individuals.

"On behalf of the organisation, I would like to thank Mama Angel for the generous donation," Nyandeni says.