Origins & Vision
The dream of establishing Khethiwe was born from the therapy program at St Mary’s hospital. From 2004 until 2014 staff members from the therapy department ran a high risk clinic where babies at risk of neurological sequelae were screened and children with impairment (predominantly CP) identified. These children commenced Physiotherapy and appropriate medical management once a diagnosis was made.
The number of children seen with impairments grew rapidly with up to 10 new children identified annually at the clinic. The need to offer more services than the hospital could offer was clear, as well as the glaringly obvious need to provide support to families carrying the load of caring these children under less than ideal circumstances.
After eight years of running a hospital based service, Mrs. Ross a trained neuro-developmental physiotherapist, who had been running the high risk clinic and providing a rehabilitation service to the children identified, decided to set up an NGO. This could offer a more holistic support service to the families while maintaining strong links with the hospital. Mrs. Ross resigned from St Mary’s Hospital at the beginning of 2011 in order to focus on establishing Khethiwe, as the hospital is only in a position to focus on providing acute care. Initially she treated the children in the children’s treatment room set up in the therapy department at the hospital.
As from June 2012 Khethiwe was able to move into a larger rented venue on the Marianhill Convent premises, adjoining the hospital, with direct, easy access to the hospital for medical visits and medication. The venue is ideal, a cottage with a large open plan room for treatment, a small office and kitchen.
Thus in 2012 Khethiwe (meaning chosen) was born: A Rehabilitation Centre for children with disabilities, focusing on children with neurological impairment and concentrating on the Outer West District of eThekwini. The majority of children are still outpatients of St Mary’s Hospital. 40-50 children attend monthly. The children are all from disadvantaged backgrounds. Most of the children accessing care have severe CP, so they can neither walk nor run, many cannot sit some are also blind and, or deaf. The majority are cognitively impaired as well. Schooling will never be possible for most of them.
Target Population and Scope of Practice
Khethiwe was established specifically for children from disadvantaged backgrounds who are unable to afford to pay for the services they need. The services are provided free of charge. The main focus is on the area surrounding St Mary’s Hospital which is the Outer West District of eThekwini.
Private facilities, while they may offer excellent care, are totally inaccessible to families surviving well below the breadline, and Khethiwe caters specifically for these children, providing free and Holistic rehabilitation and creating an environment for the development of spontaneous peer support.
The Centre aims to be a safe haven for the families to come and spend a morning having therapy and socializing, in a supportive environment.
Rehabilitation for children with cerebral palsy has always been a challenging field and this is compounded by the fact that the therapists in government facilities, are few in number. Even though community service plays a huge role in improving the situation in state hospitals, those therapists are the most junior and frequently lack the skills required for long term rehabilitation of cerebral palsy. Because of the high ratio of caregiver/child required there are few care centers provided by the government for children who are not able to be educated in the formal sector. Budget constraints and staff shortages, force many therapy departments to offer only short term, acute rehabilitation leaving families to flounder through the growing up years feeling alone and isolated.
Khethiwe is a Rehabilitation Centre, not a day care Centre, so different children are seen every day of the month, usually spending the whole morning there. 40-50 children are seen monthly. There are currently 80 children on the database.
The major difference between what is done at Khethiwe and what is done in the private sector, is that the emphasis is on the mothers being empowered to help their children so that the therapist takes on the role of the teacher/facilitator.. Children are seen individually initially and as soon as they are settled, in small groups with other children whose conditions are similar. Most of these sessions are hands on. These children are still often ostracized from their communities and their families need a significant amount of emotional support
A great strength of Khethiwe has been that these mothers have embraced their role in helping the children. There has been dramatic improvement in many of them. As they grow the children also develop friendships and enjoy one another.