Author John Bunyan wrote: “You have not lived today until you have done something for someone who can never repay you.”
In a world often ruled by CEOs and top-level influencers, it is hard to imagine these magnates as vulnerable or helpless. They are powerful players in the South African economy, rule their organisations and guide them towards success. But what if they were dependent on a wheelchair and on others for their daily needs?
This is the focus of Little Eden Society’s annual CEO Wheelchair Campaign. It’s geared to meeting the need of advocacy and support for people living with profound intellectual disability. The campaign challenges participants to spend a day at work in a wheelchair to give them some understanding of what it’s like to rely on a wheelchair.
Participants in the 2018 CEO Wheelchair Campaign found the experience rewarding and eye-opening. They developed a deeper understanding and compassion for those who live with disabilities.
Adrian Gore from Discovery, for example, says the experience was profound. “It was incredibly hard in every way,” he explains. “I got home exhausted mentally and emotionally. I can’t begin to imagine the complexity and difficulty of being in a wheelchair or living with any substantial disability, whether physical or mental.”
Maurizio Galimberti from Oberon Pharma found the campaign enlightening. “The experience highlighted the difficulties that persons with disabilities go through as far as their ability is concerned,” he says. “One of the biggest impressions I got from this campaign was the strength required to get from point A to point B in a wheelchair, and realising the hardships persons with disabilities go through on a daily basis.”
Thomas Holtz from Multotec expressed his gratitude towards Little Eden, saying, “I would like to thank Little Eden for suggesting this challenge and I believe we could all gain by appreciating what they do for our community!”
The 2019 CEO Wheelchair Campaign was launched on February 17, 2019. Participants get to choose a day in March to spend in a wheelchair. CEOs, business leaders or influencers who want to take part are required to make a donation of R50 000.
Small businesses may also participate with a R30 000 donation. All participants are encouraged to challenge others to join the cause.
Although Kargo International was not able to participate in the challenge last year, the company still donated R50 000 to the campaign. Group human resources manager Melissa Erasmus says they believe this was an important cause: “Supporting Little Eden has always been important to Kargo. The results that it achieves are visible and make a significant difference in the community.”
Gore concludes: “While my day in a wheelchair was a drop in the ocean of what people actually experience, it did give me the insight that Little Eden intended, but it was this very insight that left me feeling inspired and hopeful. I say this because the many people I know who live with disabilities are incredibly productive, high achievers, and make a significant impact. I don’t know how they do it, but they do – it’s a testimony to their grit and resilience, and the power of the human spirit.”
Little Eden Society cares for more than 300 people with profound intellectual disability, most of whom have been abandoned. Donations to Little Eden Society that go towards the residents’ care are tax deductible (with certain limitations) and donors will receive an 18A Tax Certificate that can be used to reclaim tax from the South African Revenue Service.
Supporters of Little Eden will also earn points on the Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment (B-BBEE) Scorecard. CEOs interested in participating in the Little Eden Society’s CEO Wheelchair Campaign can contact Mary-Anne Wright at firstname.lastname@example.org.