Clinton van Boomen from the Eastern Cape scooped an individual award at the 2018 MMI Lesedi Awards for his work with the Victory Kids Early Intervention Centre. He became involved with the non-profit organisation geared toward children with special social and educational needs when his young daughter was diagnosed as non-verbal.

"The reality is that the waiting list is growing faster than the rate at which schools are being built, or repurposed, to accommodate special needs learners. Victory Kids caters for children with autism spectrum disorders, childhood apraxia of speech, hearing impairment and general developmental delays," van Boomen says.

"The work they do is truly inspirational, and beyond that, they touch many lives — both learners and their families. These diagnoses can be tough on siblings and parents too," he adds.

Victory Kids provides a programme that includes small class group environments and one-on-one therapy. Established in 2005, it grew from five to 40 enrolled children. Since 2009 to date, 60 children have graduated from Victory Kids Early Intervention Centre to mainstream special education environments. 

"I have become a part of the Victory Kids team over the years. I started a support group for fathers to create a space where dads could support each other through the challenges we face," van Boomen says.

"I work closely with the operations director Zeidie-Lee Muller on strategic planning for corporate sponsorships and networking events. Together, we launched the first Victory Kids Business Breakfast in August 2017 to raise funds to build their own facility," he adds.

Van Boomen has lobbied for special needs children by presenting the Victory Kids Early Intervention Centre to local councillors, businesses and religious-based institutions in the Nelson Mandela Bay area. To date, they have raised over R500 000 for the centre’s building fund.

Van Boomen also project managed the centre’s first golf day, held at the Port Elizabeth Golf Club in April. He has also spearheaded the launch of the Victory Kids website and Facebook page.

According to the organisation, its social media presence created an opportunity for awareness campaigns and facilitated Victory Kids to connect with an international autism specialist from the University of Oklahoma.

The international connection saw the development of a parent workshop, an educators’ symposium and a symposium for all early development centres in the Nelson Mandela Bay area.

Van Boomen has also established a volunteer pipeline for the centre with the Office of International Education at Nelson Mandela University. International students can now earn credits for volunteering at Victory Kids.

Charlene Lackay, head of CSI at MMI, says, "It is wonderful to see the impact that our Lesedi Award winners have in their local community. Clinton has devoted his time and skills to the betterment of the learning structure for challenged children."

"We salute Clinton and all our employees who give back in such a way that they inspire and empower others. Through the annual Lesedi Awards, MMI is able to recognise the outstanding achievements and the efforts of our people who make a difference," Lackay concludes.

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