NGO for disabled in financial crisis

Sad day as Rehab faces closure

AFTER two decades of selfless service, the Association for the Rehabilitation of Persons with Disability (Rehab), is facing a financial crisis.

Established in 1997, the once-flourishing non-profit organisation now faces closure.

The centre came about as three different struggling organisations amalgamated. This included The East London Society for the Blind, which was very dear to Rehab acting director Rueben Puchert.

“The East London Society for the Blind helped me so much and improved my life when I was young,” he said.

Puchert suffers from a genetic disorder known as juvenile macular degeneration, which started when he was 10. He now has less than 5% of his eyesight in both eyes.

Puchert is a retired director of IT services for the department of health and has been volunteering as the acting director for Rehab for the past eight months.

“After my eyes deteriorated to the point where I could not work any longer, I realised I had to learn to walk with a cane. I phoned Rehab to ask for help and when I heard of the bad state they were in, I realised I had to do something,” Puchert said.

“Facilities and organisations like this one play a vital role in society and if I hadn’t received their help when I needed it the most, I could not have succeeded as I have in my life.”

The organisation offers free services, including skills development for people with disabilities to help them do basic things required in daily living. They also run a resource centre where they hire out wheelchairs and other equipment needed for the disabled and also help get jobs for the disabled.

The organisation also runs a home for the disabled called Link Lodge.

“It is meant to be independent living, but most of our residents cannot look after themselves; their families don’t want them; government homes are full and private homes are too expensive,” Puchert said.

The organisation employs four social workers and four community developers who receive government subsidies for their salary.

“That’s all we can afford right now. I cannot even add to their salaries and I should,” Puchert said.

“I need a multi-disciplinary team, but we do not have the funds to hire workers such as psychologists or nurses. We are trying our best to upskill ourselves, but it’s impossible to offer these vital services without the resources and skilled workers.”

Rehab receives small monthly donations via their “money boxes” that can be seen at grocery shops, such as Spargs in Beacon Bay.

“We are really grateful for the R300 or R400 we manage to get from the good people who donate in our money boxes, but it’s not enough to get us by,” Puchert said.

CALL FOR HELP: Despite the Rehab ‘money boxes’ bringing in some money every month, the organisation is facing a financial crisis which may result in the closure of its facilities. Rehab offers vital services for the blind, physically and mentally disabled
Picture: MADELEINE CHAPUT

Rehab has taken to selling its properties in and around Buffalo City Metro (BCM) in an attempt to pay off debts and keep the facility running.

According to Stats SA, there are 165000 people living with disabilities in the Amathole region alone. This includes the BCM. Rehab is the only organisation of its kind, catering to those with physical, eyesight and mental disabilities.

“We need to be able to reach more people as those with disabilities and their families have no support structure,” Puchert said.

“My motto in life is that it is convenient to see, but it is not essential. To succeed and enjoy a full and happy life, people with disabilities need to understand this. They can still succeed at life, they can still enjoy it.”

Without Rehab, many disabled people would be left with no support – and no hope. “There is so much work that needs to be done, I cannot allow this organisation to fall apart,” Puchert said.

If anybody is willing to become involved in any way, please contact Puchert on (043)722-1811 or visit the organisation at 6 St Lukes Road, in Southernwood.

CAPTION: Volunteer director of Rehab, Reuben Puchert is appealling to the public to help out the struggling organisation Pictures: MADELEINE CHAPUT

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