Students Champion Mariannridge Wheelchair Project
Changing lives for the better in the Mariannridge community of Durban is the driving force for UKZN Occupational Therapy (OT) students involved in a thriving wheelchair project.
The township, established in September 1976 to house Coloured families relocated from Durban, faces several health and socio-economic challenges that need urgent attention.
The UKZN project was launched in 2015 when final year OT students, led by their Lecturer, Mrs June McIntyre, screened the Mariannridge community for clients who needed wheelchairs but were unable to afford them.
Two months into 2016, final-year students Bicole Andrews, Nosiphiwe Radebe and Anychia Ramracheya successfully championed the rollout of six new wheelchairs to members of the community with the help of local Community Care Giver, Mrs Sharon Sithole, and the academic supervision of OT Lecturer, Ms Chantal Christopher.
‘I’m so, so happy,’ said wheelchair recipient, Ms Granny July (85), who moved to Mariannridge in 1976. ‘It was very hard for me get out the house and walk up the hill using a walking stick.’
The new wheelchair replaced one on loan and July now looks forward to Sundays when she can join the Church congregation in her own seat.
And things have also improved in the Olifant household following the delivery of a second wheelchair. Ms Mary-Ann Olifant said the additional new wheelchair made it possible for her to provide better care for her disabled elderly mother and brother, who both need to use a taxi to get to the clinic and collect their monthly grants.
The same relief was felt by the family of Ms Aunty Rose, a paraplegic, who had been using a borrowed wheelchair for more than 25 years. Her family and son, who suffers from epilepsy, take care of her. She too often needs to travel to the clinic, church and Pinetown to run errands.
‘Going out into the community really promotes what our profession is about,’ said the students. ‘It’s a profession that grows on you. Seeing the impact you make and improving your clients’ quality of life is really rewarding.’
The students explained that roles were reversed when the healthcare professional visited the client at home. ‘You get a holistic view of who the client is and where they come from - unlike in hospital. You connect on a different level and treat their whole family,’ said a student.
On some visits, the students are joined by their Speech-Language Pathology peer, Ms Kayla Campbell. ‘It's interesting to see her applying her knowledge. It's about skills transfer and working towards common purpose,’ they said.
The students are part of a larger School of Health Sciences community placement programme, geared to produce next generation ‘fit-for-purpose’ graduates.