Five-year old Buhlebenkosi Mene’s life has changed forever, and for the better, with a much-needed wheelchair, sponsored by the Breadtags for Wheelchairs project and the WP Stormers Rubgy team. Buhlebenkosi, who lives in Kraaifontein, was born with spina bifida, a birth defect, in which the vertebrae don’t form properly around parts of the spinal cord.
“Buhle won’t ever be able to walk and I have to carry her everywhere we need to go. She is growing and getting too heavy for me, but we don’t have the money to buy a wheelchair,” explains her mother, Zikhona.
Each year, almost 300 wheelchairs are handed over to recipients, thanks to the collection of the breadtags. These plastic closures have a high recycling value and the Polystyrene Association has established a network of buyers around the country who have agreed to pay R8 for each kilo of tags.
Once enough tags have been collected to cover the cost of a chosen wheelchair, the money is paid to the relevant pharmacy or wheelchair supplier.
“DB Janse van Rensburg is a Grade 11 pupil at the Paul Roos Gymnasium in Stellenbosch and one of our most enthusiastic collectors,” says Adri Spangenberg, director of the Polystyrene Association and administrator of the Breadtags for Wheelchairs Project.
“He heard about Buhle’s plight and encouraged his fellow pupils, the local community and the Stormers rugby team to become involved through his friendship with Stormers flyhalf and ex-Paul Roos pupil, Damian Willemse,” she adds. A temporary wheelchair was handed over to an excited Buhle by Van Rensburg and Willemse.
“Because it is important to ensure that the correct wheelchair is bought, QASA assesses the requirements of each recipient and ensures they get the right chair for their needs. In the interim, little Buhle has been given the gift of mobility – in a wheelchair with which she can get around,” Adri explains.
“We are very excited to be part of this project and to have been able to improve the life of this little girl. As part of National Disability Rights Awareness Month (November 3 to December 3), we wanted to encourage people to start collecting their breadtags. It is amazing to think that something so small and easy to do can have such a big impact on the lives of other people,” said Willemse during the handover.
For more information on how to get involved in the Breadtags for Wheelchair project, visit the Polystyrene Association’s website at www.polystyrenesa.co.za or their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/#!/groups/btagsforwchairs.