Special Reports

Intervention where it is needed most

Mandi Smallhorne

Momentum Fund chose to focus its CSI initiatives in areas where there seemed to be gaps in social development support.

The Momentum Fund focuses on social development for vulnerable children and people with disabilities

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Momentum Fund

Mandi Smallhorne

"We focus on people with disabilities and children with vulnerabilities, because we saw an opportunity truly to make a difference in these two sectors that are often marginalised and neglected," says CSI ­manager Khethiwe Nkuna.

The programme for people with disabilities aims to support and strengthen the disabled as well as society's potential to include them. Projects deal with care, education and prevention and focus on quality and access. A bursary fund also supports postgraduate students with disabilities.

The programme for children with vulnerabilities focuses on ensuring that children affected and infected by HIV/Aids and their caregivers have access to proper care and support. It targets vulnerable children and child- and granny-headed households with projects focused on health, education and social services.

More than 120 non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and educational institutions across South Africa have benefited from the fund's support. Since 2006 the fund has contributed more than R75-million to development, supporting organisations that provide key social welfare, health and education services to more than 650 000 direct beneficiaries.

The fund is supported by the Momentum Mighty Hearts programme, a staff volunteer project that encourages employees to participate in "giving back", says Nkuna.

"Employees have built homes for needy families, supported child and orphan feeding schemes, donated warm clothes and blankets, provided school shoes for children in rural areas and supplied bread ovens and relevant operational training in areas such as Gauteng, Limpopo and the Northern Cape," she says.

"The groundwork has been laid and many employees are already hands-on in their quest to make a difference, partnering with beneficiary organisations and engaging directly with the communities they support."

The development of children with vulnerabilities can be held back by a range of problems and interventions in their lives are rewarding.

Take Ampfarisaho Ratshilumela, a boy of four from rural Limpopo.

He had problems with processing sensory input, which means he hated being touched and handled. He could not stand or walk and cried a lot for no apparent reason. It was very hard for his mother and grandmother to look after him at home.

A Momentum-supported NGO, Malamulele Onward, took him and his mom, Phathutshedzo Ratshilumela, to Johannesburg for a week of therapy in October 2011. The therapy focused on enabling him to calm down and introducing movement into his life. Phathutshedzo was shown how to encourage him to play in a manner that would help him cope and move around better.

He was much better by the end of the week and a home programme was built on this progress over the next few months. By the time he was taken back to Donald Fraser Hospital in Vhufuli to be assessed in February, he could stand and was beginning to take steps. Even better, he was full of chuckles and did not cry once.

Mboneni Lukhwareni is another toddler who has benefited from Malamulele Onward's work. Damage to his brain as a baby had left him with a form of cerebral palsy, so he did not have full control of his movements and had a visual impairment that meant he could not make sense of what he was seeing.

Malamulele Onward first saw him in 2009. He was given a week of daily therapy by neurodevelopmental therapists and his mother got a standing frame and special seat to help him balance, along with an exercise programme.

With follow-up treatment he progressed well and by February this year he was able to make sense of his own image in the mirror, could stand with just a little support, was reaching for objects and taking a few steps.

"We have had the privilege of ­witnessing the transformation of people's lives," says Nkuna about this programme as well as the one that helps people with disabilities.

A beneficiary of the latter is Raksha Toolsi, who recently completed her PhD in microbial biotechnology at the University of KwaZulu-Natal despite having chronic rheumatoid arthritis.

"Nothing would be possible without the dedication and hard work of our NGOs and government departments," Nkuna says. "Because we partner with organisations across the country, they in turn partner with the individuals and families that need their help and the ripple effect of the support and resulting positive impact is felt throughout our communities, our provinces and our country as a whole."

The Investing in the Future judges singled out Momentum Fund for its comprehensive, far-reaching work among desperately needy people and projects that are often ignored by other CSI programmes.

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