Posted on Sep 17, 2023
Our program on September 20 was the recipient of two related presentations.  First, club member Lucinda Kerschensteiner talked about a Rotary Vocational Team Training Grant Program that is being carried out in conjunction with the Rotary Club of Claremont, South Africa.  Then Eion Brown, a member of that club who is visiting Fort Collins in conjunction with the Team Training Grant, talked about one of his club’s major fund-raising efforts, an annual bicycle tour around Cape Town, South Africa. 
Lucinda started by summarizing how the Vocational Training Team (VTT) system works coming from Educational Training Grants from the Rotary Foundation.  A Vocational Training Team is a group of professionals (who may or may not be Rotarians) who travel to another country (in this case traveling from South Africa to the US) to teach local professionals about a particular field.  The field must align with one of the Rotary Foundation’s Areas of Focus, build capacity of the benefiting community, and have a sustainable impact.  The VTT must be sponsored by Rotary Clubs from two countries and include at least two members with at least two years of professional experience in the area of focus.  In a departure from the usual approach, this VTT is a group of South African experts who have come to the US to train our locals in addressing the needs of children with disabilities.  The South African program, the “Ndinogona” or “I Can” Stimulation Program, working through “Uhambo”, a non-profit focused on working with children with disabilities in South Africa founded by Lucinda here in the US, works with a group called Shonaquip in South Africa to provide mobility (e.g., wheel chairs) appropriate for the needs of the disabled children in their own life situation.  The underlying theme is to facilitate inclusion of the children in their communities.  Shonaquip evolved from the successful effort of a woman named Shona to provide appropriate mobility for her disabled (cerebral palsy) daughter in the South African society that provided few accommodations for disabilities of any description.  Shonaquip is a community model that provides not just appropriate equipment but also manuals for training of both caretakers and providers; it includes a play-based approach to bringing the disabled children into their surrounding society. The three team members from South Africa are spending two weeks in the US delivering training in the program and getting feedback on the program for the US market. 
Mr. Brown, the representative from the Claremont Rotary Club of Cape Town (and the club that is the South African co-sponsor of the VTT), gave a brief history of his club, including its growth to the current 75 members.  Most of his presentation was about his club’s sponsorship and growth of an annual bicycle tour around Table Mountain (at Cape Town) which started in 1977 and grew to some 42,000 participants before declining to its current, safer, level of 26,000 participants. Although there was no direct connection between the bicycle tour and the VTT/associated focus on disabled children, the scale of the bicycle tour gives a strong indication of the dedication and dynamism of the club. 
Is there any need for the South African ambulatory equipment in the US?  There are certainly many providers of equipment for disabled individuals in the US, but those providers are not necessarily coordinated in any way.  For the most part, there is no incentive or financial possibility of importing any of the South-African equipment to the US.  That said, there has been one special wheel-chair backrest that has been brought to the US. 
Names and origins of the organizations? The Shonaquip Social Enterprise grew from the efforts of Shona, the mother, to provide mobility for her daughter.  Uhambo is a non-profit organization, now in the US, that is organized to support the work in South Africa; the name comes from a tribal word for “traveling”. 
What about rural villages or other communities with little or no pavement?  This is not necessarily straightforward.  There are actually rural communities in and around Cape Town.  There are not a lot of infrastructure issues – the bigger challenge is overcoming deep-seated misunderstandings about disabilities.  Disability support is simply not well funded by the government. 
How available is personalized equipment in South Africa?  How about in the US?  Basically, this sort of equipment is not cost-effective either place and it is very expensive in South Africa.

Please check out some pictures at this link.