On monday I travelled to Joburg to visit some early intervention centres I'd come to hear about.
I wasn't really sure what exactly the purpose of my visits were and what I was hoping to achieve. As an early interventionist, working in the area of disability, the overall rule that guides my daily work is; there's always something to learn. Often I take on tasks, start a frenzy of research or nudge my way into every therapist's room in Durban, without a real 'purpose' for doing so, but with a pesky notion ticking in my head- "There's something here! I can learn something here."
I am never disappointed
So- as I pulled up at The Baby Therapy Centre in Lynnwood, Pretoria, I knew I would be learning something. I hadn't realised though- that I would be feeling something too.
The centre is small and modest- as a NPO the budget is limited. Im sure the ladies who work there would love to have the extra money for colourful wall murals, exciting play equipment and beautiful couches in the waiting area- but as it stands, money must be utilised well, where is it needed- on therapy, care and education.
And here is where it gets beautiful!
I was taken on a tour of the centre by (Manager) Karin; shown each room, talked through every process, introduced to each team member and given a wealth of info about the centre.
Their philosophy is simple- Every child has potential, every child is given support and encouragement and everyone is invested in that child's development.
Therapists work together (OT, physio, speech and music therapists,) Together they plan interventions, discuss ideas, follow through on each other's practices and hold a real stake in being apart of an early intervention team. It's unselfish and wonderful- and successful.
The centre has 4 components to it- the main building is the therapy centre itself, alongside it is the day care. The day care exists to ensure that the children of full time working parents are able to receive their necessary therapies. There, I met a lovely nursing sister, Heleen,- who showed an unusual mixture of 'medial factualness' and genuine gentle empathy. Next, Chrysalis, resembling slightly more of an early learning/ pre preschool, ensures the slightly older children receive stimulation and care in the next phase of their formative years. Lastly, the therapy pool, set to the side on the property.
The best part of my visit was definitely meeting the staff. Warm, fresh faced and smiley- all happy, jovial and completely positive about the centre and the children they work with (some of whom no one else will take.)
There were 2 aspects of the day that remained in my mind after I had left the centre.
The first was a phrase Karin had uttered, (without really a second thought or pause for effect.) She had said, as she walked through the day care smiling at the babies;
"We never turn any baby away."
Now- to anyone who doesn't work in this sector, that sentence may sound obvious. If you're a centre for disability- then you should take in any disability! Well, you can trust me on this one- the ability to know what you can and cannot do, how far your skills extend and how much you can really help- is a humbling and vital skill to acquire. Being able to admit; Others can do better than I can- is as much a gift to the parent as it is to the child. So, when Karin said that sentence, I thought; can it be true?
The proof that it is true- is the 2nd aspect that remained in my mind.
They are honestThey are truly doing as much as they possibly can for the children they see.
How do I know?
I've seen the reverse.
The saddest truth I've had to learn in my life so far is that- in the disability sector, 90% of the educators, therapists, social workers and carers who work with young disabled children are; jaded, unsympathetic and self gratifying.
At the BTC this is not the case. The evolution of the centre proves this. First it was a centre providing necessary holistic therapeutic interventions to young disabled babies. Then, as so many families battled to arrange their work week in order to bring their children for their therapies- the day care opened. When the babies began reaching school-going ages and parents reported being turned away from school after school- Chrysalis opened. Today- the children reach9-10yrs of age and must move on. But, parents are still unable to find centres to accommodate their older children, and the inevitability of a dead-end hits. This fact weighs heavily on the shoulders of all the ladies at the centre. You can see it- they all mention it in soft whispers. They all care. They really do care.
That's the part that I felt.
It is with the upmost respect that
I write and share this account.
To the ladies at Baby Therapy Centre:
(my hope is rekindled)
You are lovely.
and Bright Eyes