Rare facility for kids with special needs

Parents and caregivers have been running their own facility in East London for ten years

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Photo of people of Canaan Care Centre
Care givers and the children at Canaan Care Centre go for a walk. Photo supplied

When the Foden centre for children with brain damage closed down in the mid-2000s, it left many parents with nowhere in East London to care for their children. They decided to start Canaan, a centre that would also care for children with severe disabilities.

Some of the caregivers have gained their experience through caring for their own loved ones. Phumeza Mangona says that from the day the Canaan Care Centre started, she could not imagine doing anything else.

“We wanted a home that can understand and meet these children’s needs and improve their quality of life, and that’s exactly what Canaan does,” she says. Her brother has Down Syndrome.

Eleanor Saayman manages the not-for-profit centre, located in Belgravia, East London. It provides daycare and also a boarding facility for children with special needs.

Canaan opened in 2006 with only R100 in the bank, but survived with the support of a committee of mothers who wanted a place where their children would be provided with physiotherapy, occupational therapy and support.

The centre now has eight caregivers and 27 children. It provides basic education and therapy for children up to 16 years old. Most of the children are unable to walk or speak. They rely on their care workers to feed, change and move them around. The children come from East London and surrounding areas; some of the children in residence come from as far away as Butterworth.

The children’s guardians pay R1,700 per month for daycare. Boarding facilities are also available from Monday to Thursdays during term time for children attending daycare for R1,400 including all their meals.

Funds for the daycare centre come from parents, the lottery, government, monthly pledges and donations. But it is still insufficient for the needs of the centre.

Eleanor Saayman started running the centre in 2014. She says they have a professional therapist to keep their care up to date as they are dealing with children with all kinds of disabilities, but she had to retrench two caregivers because of a lack of funding.

“It’s very hard to make ends meet. The nature of what we do is very expensive as one child costs up to R4,000 per month. It would be really wonderful if people could donate and more funds would come in,” she says.

Although Saayman sometimes has to use money from her own pocket to keep the centre open, she vows to keep going.

“As long as there are children in need of the support we are able to provide, we will strive to remain present in the community,” she says.

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TOPICS:  Disability Rights Health

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