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OPPORTUNITIES FOR DISABLED MAKING A DIFFERENCE TO MANY LIVES

Finding a job is not always easy. If you are physically disabled it's even a bigger hurdle. Government has passed laws encouraging employers to hire disabled people, but many are still left to survive on their own.

People with disabilities don't have to feel left out because they have no skills. There are institutions that care about them, develop their skills and help them to make a living.

The Lebuwe Centre for People with Disabilities in Atteridgeville, Pretoria is such a place. The centre is making a difference to the lives of about 80 physically disabled people every year.

Management

The Lebuwe Centre opened its doors in 1978 under the name Association for People with Disabilities. It has since helped hundreds of people with skills training and earning an income.

A management committee runs the centre. Some of the people with disabilities form part of the committee and they are always involved when important decisions are made.

"We believe nothing can be discussed about persons with disabilities without their involvement," said centre matron and treasurer, Mrs Lynette Molefe.

Income

The centre offers training in many different skills. Some people learn to do things like sewing, knitting, beadwork, catering and baking, and making wreaths from plastic for funeral parlours.

Others make useful household products like dishwashing liquids and foam baths. They sell these items to local residents on pension pay-out days.

The centre is running several income-making projects like repairing of wheelchairs for the Kalafong Hospital. They also do work for manufacturers like separating plastic screw plugs and sewing of protective clothing for the government-owned weapons company Denel.

Literacy

Earning a small stipend from the income-making projects, helps some of the people working at the centre to add to the social security grants they get from government.

In April last year, the centre became involved in the Government's Kha ri Gude mass literacy campaign. Most of the centre workers have now enrolled for literacy classes.

"They are really enjoying learning," said Kha ri Gude voluntary educator at the centre, Maria Matsetela. "Some of them have never held pens in their lives, but they can now write and sign their names." For some it is a slow process, but there is always improvement, which helps a lot to boost their self-worth, she said.

Support

The Lebuwe Centre gets some financial support from the Gauteng Department of Social Development. But keeping the centre going is expensive. Financial donations and material donations like clothing, blankets and food are always welcome. The centre also needs volunteers who can help to run some of the programmes.

- Mbulelo Baloyi