"The SPAR 'Wheelchair Wednesday' initiative has set the objectives of spreading awareness to the youth and raising the overall donation to over 1 000 wheelchairs (since 2011) during its annual campaign," says Garth van Niekerk, chairman of APD.
Launched at SPAR Acres in Port Elizabeth, the campaign focuses on creating awareness of the needs of those with disabilities, while also striving to generate funds to provide wheelchairs for mobility-impaired citizens.
"In terms of the youth aspect, we are delighted to have [had] pupils from Collegiate Girls' High with us," van Niekerk adds... "This is the second year they have participated and eight pupils, spending one hour each in a wheelchair, will go through the programme."
"On top of that, more exciting news is that three other schools are joining the programme; Grey High, Pearson and Lawson Brown [are] all taking part in the next few weeks," adds van Niekerk.
"Our emphasis is on trying to get more youth involved, which is important as they are the leaders of tomorrow. The younger they can get this experience, the better," van Niekerk says.
In addition, van Niekerk says the schools would be donating wheelchairs to the initiative, and they were certain to top the 1 000 mark by the final activation on Wednesday, 28 August.
"Having raised funds for 800 wheelchairs by , our aim is to get to four figures in 2019 and I have no doubt we will achieve that,”" van Niekerk adds.
Companies and schools will support the campaign this year, with volunteers spending four hours in a wheelchair to experience the difficulties mobility-impaired citizens face daily.
With a helper at their side, the volunteers will be required to execute everyday tasks at different venues in the city. van Niekerk says the initiative has definitely proved to be a success.
"Besides the people who suddenly realise how difficult it can be operating from a wheelchair, there has been a definite increase in awareness among businesses in the city," van Niekerk adds.
"Things such as wider aisles and better accessibility for wheelchair-users have become apparent in some centres because companies are taking this much more seriously," he says.
Another important element was the feedback they received from the volunteers during the month, van Niekerk says. "We then use this information to provide awareness training to companies and that is another successful part of the overall initiative," he adds.
"Our motto is 'four hours in a wheelchair and you can change somebody's life and that works in two ways: It changes your life because you realise the difficulties, while the awareness created and funds generated help those who have mobility problems," van Niekerk concludes.
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