Thandiwe’s story
mary james | LETCEE
A reflection from Mary

Partners4Life Visit – Worcester

Partners4life Productivity group | Letcee visit

Partners4life Productivity group | Letcee visit

Partners4Life - Breede Valley APD

Today I had the privilege to visit the Breede Valley Association for Persons with Disability (BVAPD). They are also part of the Mamas Alliance. Their programs are vast – catering for most of the needs people with disabilities and their families have.

Split those eggs!
As an NPO, they realise the importance of not having all your eggs in the same basket and they are truly practising this principle. On their premises, they have a day care centre for younger children with disabilities – providing for their educational and social needs. They also have protective workshops for adults with disabilities and run youth programs. Their protective workshops include a recycling plant, fully functioning laundry and crafts programs. These programs provide their beneficiaries with a stable daily program, developing their skills, giving them purpose. But at the same time these workshops also provide the opportunity to generate an income that strengthens the projects.

Reflecting on what I learnt
One of the most important lessons I learnt today, was more of a personal revelation than a professional one, but I wish to share it with you. I realised that community is everything! A safe, nurturing community is where we all belong. This is where we thrive and are able to reach our full potential. “Community” has different definitions for all of us. In my LETCEE work, community refers mostly to rural areas, lots of hills and huts and people who live off the land. Today, I saw a different community. One that is not as defined by a location or area, but is made up of like-minded people.

I was astonished by the sense of belonging, purpose and pride that were part of every person I met today. From the administrative staff, to the program implementers, the people with disabilities and their families. These programs provide them with the opportunity to spend time with people in similar situations. It fosters the idea that none of us are alone – no matter how unique we think our circumstances are.

At the recycling plant, the workers were listening to music, proud of their job. In the laundry building the ladies were joking about how much they love to iron. The crafters loved to have their pictures taken and were delighted to show me what they were working on. Each person has their role, fulfilling a specific purpose to ensure this business runs well.

This is a unique community. These community members find purpose in their community. As people who are often looked down upon or ostracised in their home communities, they have a place to belong and people who care for them, embrace them and challenge them to be better. They have a job to go to every morning – more than a lot of the other people they live amongst. Yes, it is a protective community and workplace and demands are adapted, but they are working for something. They are missed when they take leave; have to fill in leave forms; account for the work done or not done and they are remunerated with a food parcel at the end of the month.

Community is everything!
I realised today that I am part of a single-minded community who cares for each other and our own development. I am thankful again for the opportunity to work at LETCEE and to learn from the people around me. It never clicked for me that “community” was also a way of describing my place of work. It’s a word I use so often – on the website, in reports or newsletters – but today, being 1400+km away from home I realise that I belong. Despite of where I am or what I do, I am part of a group of like-minded people who support me, believe in me, encourage me, challenge me and dare me to fly.

I was also reminded again to contribute towards creating this sense of community within the whole of LETCEE. We can be proud of the work we do and the things we have achieved, but often people don’t feel like part of this community because they aren’t aware of everything we do. I was encouraged to enhance communication with all staff members and volunteers – the only way to build LETCEE pride is to start with sharing our accomplishments and building a sense of belonging.

Jolene, also an occupational therapist, shared some practical tips with me that I can use to enhance LETCEE’s programs. She shared on parent groups, life skills, income generation and other community interactions. But I think what I will remember most about today’s visit is the way they made me feel. I am proud of my job; thankful for the community I am part of. My heart bursts with pride for the organisation I work for. We all have something to share and a role to fulfill. Today I was just reminded of my unique place in the puzzle.

Written by: Annika Hayward

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