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Aida Coertse spent time with the Woodside Special Care Centre’s resilient children last month and shared her experience and how people can make a difference too.


South Africa (11 August 2023) – Last month marked a deeply profound and unforgettable experience as I stepped through the doors of the Woodside Special Care Centre. Nestled amidst the beauty of Cape Town, this extraordinary place serves as a haven for children and adults facing severe cerebral palsy, autism, severe diabetes, epilepsy, and various other physical and mental disabilities.

As I walked through the centre, I was warmly welcomed by the management, Melanie Brand and another member of her dedicated team Fredrick Mukendi. They kindly guided me through the centre, and introduced me their patients.

There are 83 patients in the facility, ranging in age from 6 years old to 55 years old, and I had the pleasure of meeting each and every single one of them. Eugene, Linett, Nicola, Lameese, Ricardo, Kristian, and David are only a few beautiful names that comes to my mind. Each individual has their own unique personality and charm, and it was evident that they share a special bond with the devoted staff. The challenges they face daily are immense, but their resilience and unyielding spirit shine through every interaction and day after day. The care and support they receive from the staff and management at Woodside are nothing short of remarkable.

When I arrived, there was a vibrant Zumba class going on in the yard, and some of the patients who were able to be outdoors were enjoying the music and the activity. The atmosphere was filled with joy. Feeling the infectious energy and enthusiasm, I couldn’t resist joining them and the staff in the Zumba class. We were both, dancing for the patients and danced together with them—an incredible moment of connection that transcended words. Even though some patients were not able to get up and dance, they were moving in their wheelchairs, waving their arms or hands, and ensuring they were participating. Physical and mental barriers seemed to fade away, I felt a profound sense of unity with these amazing individuals.

As I spent time with these special individuals, I learned that each patient has their own life story, and some of these stories are truly heartbreaking. Some of the patients have been at Woodside for most of their lives, finding a loving and nurturing home within its walls. The centre has become their family, and the dedicated staff their pillars of support. Despite the hardships they have endured, their spirits remain unbroken, and they find comfort and belonging in the warm embrace of Woodside.

The centre’s team is truly a beacon of compassion and selflessness. Every staff member wears their heart on their sleeve, pouring boundless love into each individual’s life. From the moment I arrived, it was evident that these professionals were not just caregivers; they were advocates, cheerleaders, and friends to these patients. The personalized attention and care they provide are tailored to meet the unique needs of every individual. For example, feeding was a mission of its own; some needed to be fed very slowly and with complete patience, while others couldn’t receive any food or water orally and had to be fed through a tube.

I continued walking through the wards with Melanie and Fredrick; they introduced me to the patients and shared their life stories with me, where they came from, and how they ended up at Woodside Care Centre. Their love for their special children was heartfelt in a way that I thought they were nothing short of what I call an earth Angel.

The facility was thoroughly clean and spotless, and I was delighted to learn about the centre’s organic vegetable garden where they produce their own fresh and organic vegetables. This initiative not only provides nutritious food for the patients but also creates a nurturing environment where they can learn about gardening and experience the joy of growing their own produce.

Caring for individuals with severe disabilities is no easy task, and yet the dedication and passion of the staff at Woodside remain unwavering. I had the privilege of witnessing the way they engaged with the patients—feeding them, talking to them, cleaning, and interacting with them. They offered not only medical and physical support but also the gift of love and emotional connection.

Soon I learned that, some of these children and adults have family members who are involved and supportive, But the harsh reality is that most of them have been abandoned by their families and communities. Woodside Special Care Centre has become their surrogate family, providing not just medical care but also the love and sense of belonging that every individual deserves. That’s why it is of utmost importance for people to reach out to these beautiful souls, sharing love and support, and not pushing them to the fringes of society.

My visit to Woodside has ignited a fire within me to reach out to the public and invite them to be part of this extraordinary journey. The patients at Woodside need us—our love, our skills, our understanding, and our support. Their potential to thrive is boundless, but they need a community that embraces them and celebrates their uniqueness with love.

Here are some ways we can make a difference:

  • Volunteer: Dedicate even a small amount of your time or expertise to help these individuals. Your presence will brighten their days and bring immeasurable joy to their lives. They need speech therapy, physio and occupational therapy, nursing, and respite care. You can even help feed them, read to them, give them a hug, or hold their hands. Simply let them know they are loved, that they belong, and they matter.
  • Donate: Financial contributions can provide vital resources, medical equipment, and educational materials that are essential for their growth and development.
  • Spread Awareness: Share the stories of these brave individuals and the incredible work being done at Woodside with your friends, family, and colleagues. Increasing awareness can foster a more inclusive and compassionate community.
  • Foster a Culture of Love and Acceptance: Engage with individuals with disabilities in your own community with love, empathy, and respect. Embrace their uniqueness and help create a society that values inclusion and diversity.

The journey I embarked on at Woodside has left me forever changed. I am humbled by the courage and strength of these individuals and the unwavering dedication of the staff. Today, I stand before you, extending an invitation to join this beautiful cause—a cause that celebrates life, love, and the extraordinary spirit of these individuals.

Let us unite as a community and extend our arms to embrace these wonderful souls. Together, we can make a lasting impact on their lives, empowering them to overcome challenges feeling loved. As we pour our love into their lives, we will undoubtedly find that they give us far more in return—lessons in resilience, joy, and the beauty of embracing life in all its forms.

Join me in making a difference at Woodside Special Care Centre. Together, we can create a world where every individual knows they are cherished, valued, and loved for exactly who they are.

For more information on how you can support Woodside Special Care Centre, please visit:

Phone: +27 21 696 2811

Sources: Supplied
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About the Author

Tyler Leigh Vivier is a writer for Good Things Guy.

Her passion is to spread good news across South Africa with a big focus on environmental issues, animal welfare and social upliftment. Outside of Good Things Guy, she is an avid reader and lover of tea.

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