Western Cape regional commissioner Delekile Klaas with a group of five offenders hands over a wheelchair to five-year-old John Curtlin at the Goodwood Correctional facility as his mother looks on.
A five-year-old boy is the latest recipient of a wheelchair, which was assembled by offenders of the Goodwood Correctional facility.

Correctional Services regional commissioner Delekile Klaas said thanks to a partnership with the department and the Hillsong Foundation, John Curtlin from Porterville will be mobile.

The Department of Correctional Services teamed up with the foundation in 2013 and have since distributed 2 039 wheelchairs to disabled people around the Western Cape, Limpopo, Gauteng, Eastern Cape, Free State and Northern Cape.

The wheelchairs are funded by the Free Wheelchair Mission in the US. When they arrive in SA they are assembled by offenders before they are handed out to those in need.

“So far this project has yielded very positive results, as it gives offenders a very good sense of worth, knowing that they are giving back to communities by changing the lives of the disabled.

“A number of these inmates have been trained in this process and for them it is a wonderful experience and also the team spirit among them in assembling these wheelchairs is remarkable, it really gives them something positive to do. 

"The offenders work under the very watchful eye of (a) professional official, who makes sure that the assembly process is carried out correctly,” Klaas said.

Hillsong Africa Foundation project co-ordinator Willem Britz said the partnership enables them to have a far-reaching impact.

Britz explained how they locate people who are in need of the wheelchairs.

“We work via local churches, one in Gugulethu and the other in Mitchells Plain, and they identify people who are in need of wheelchairs.

“We want the wheelchairs to be accessible and add value. Free Wheelchair Mission assists us with this.”

Klass said the department had a responsibility to work closely with disadvantaged communities in “strengthening the bridge between offenders and victims of crime”.

“While the White Paper on Corrections in South Africa provides for the safe incarceration and rehabilitation of all offenders, who are serving their court-imposed sentences, the Department of Correctional Services also has a fundamental responsibility to work very closely with the affected communities in strengthening the bridge between offenders and victims of crime.

“Remember some of these offenders come from communities and will return to their communities once their sentences are completed.

“We have until now pitched this idea to other regions, and the regional commissioners have requested teams to be dispatched to these provinces, so that they can share this important skill with other colleagues.

“I can safety say that this is what we call rehabilitation in action,” Klaas added.