/ 1 November 2013

Mobility unblocks path to progress

Shonaquip provides children across South Africa with devices built specifically to cope with the unforgiving environments in which they live.
Shonaquip provides children across South Africa with devices built specifically to cope with the unforgiving environments in which they live. (supplied)

Shonaquip is a successful organisation that has provided posture support devices, clinical support and training services to more than 75 000 children and their caregivers throughout South Africa.

It is the brainchild of Shona McDonald and was inspired by the birth of her second daughter, who has cerebral palsy.

All the products developed by Shonaquip are unique, and children across South Africa have been the inspiration behind chairs and devices that were built specifically for them and the unforgiving environments in which they need to live.

McDonald has worked with global and regional policy makers in the disability sector, in addition to healthcare professionals, education and social development professionals to bring life-changing solutions to children who desperately need them.

“I must be an eternal optimist as I have an irritating habit of seeing solutions to the problems that block our progress,” she says.

“I believe that if you can’t fix it or change it, then you need to find ways to work with it or navigate around it. Shelly, my daughter, reminds me every day why what we are doing is important and why I need to keep doing this.”

Through her hard work she has formed partnerships and collaborations with organisations such as the National Childcare Workers Association, the World Health Organisation and the Occupational Therapist Association of South Africa.

She set up the Uhambo Foundation to attract grant funding and ensure support for activities that government will not fund.

This led to the establishment of the UhamboUSA Foundation, which helps regional partners set up their own independent enterprises.

“She is a visionary and has developed her company as a model of social enterprise,” says Lorraine Frost, general manager of the Uhambo Foundation. “She always finds ways to address problems that others would never dream of.

“She is a true inspiration through her dedication to improving the lives of people with disabilities, and advocating for the rights of people with mobility disabilities to accessible and appropriate devices as well as services in South Africa.”

For the past 20 years, McDonald has used her business to drive awareness of and provide the right support for children in need.

She has worked tirelessly to give people the devices they need to live full and rewarding lives without feeling the constant sting of their disabilities. For her, this has been a labour of love.

“I met an 18-month-old boy from Namibia who could only pull himself along on the ground because his back had been injured when he was very small,” she says.

“When we made him his first device, his personality was liberated and he became a little terror, dashing around the room chasing his sister and brother, taking his future into his own hands. The right equipment gave him wings. It brought back all my memories of my own daughter’s first chair and how it changed her life.”

Although this article has been made possible by the Mail & Guardian's advertisers, content and photographs were sourced independently by the M&G supplements editorial team. It forms part of a larger supplement.