Virtual reality helps SA’s young isolated patients in a pandemic era

By Yasmine Jacobs Time of article published Mar 2, 2021

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Cape Town - South Africans have been called on to support Reach for a Dream’s mission to fulfil virtual dreams of SA’s young isolated patients.

Covid-19 has disrupted many people's lives and changed the world, forcing us to live in the ’new normal’. Before COVID-19, Reach for a Dream relied on in-person experiences, whether it is a child meeting their role model or even going to a dress-up party.

However, this was no longer safe and possible during the pandemic as many of the children in the programme already have compromised immune systems.

This didn’t stop the foundation from helping the Dreamers and made the move to embrace the world of virtual reality (VR) technology. Using VR, Dreamers could be transported across the world and enjoy an escape from their harsh reality.

"It broke our hearts to see these children, most of them hospitalised and bedridden for long periods, become even more isolated during the pandemic, and without a way of having their dreams fulfilled,” says Natalie Lazaris, Business Head at Reach for a Dream.

Reach for a Dream provides the children with VR dream days, letting them enjoy immersive experiences like Disney World rides, swimming with dolphins and playing with cute Labrador puppies.

Dr. Shaegan Irusen, who is a Paediatric Nephrologist at Charlotte Maxeke Hospital hailed the platform, adding that it made a difference.

"The new virtual reality platform has changed a child's experience of their hospital admission. They now experience new adventures from the safety of their beds, which gives them something exciting to look forward to. The children's excitement is tangible."

The foundation has seven VR headsets and hopes to obtain another 17 sets. It also aims to expand its existing content library of 13 immersive experiences to include hundreds of VR videos for the children to access.

Reach for a Dream is engaging with various international content creators to gain access to more exciting and therapeutic content for the Dreamers to experience, like running onto a rugby field with a team or racing around a track in a fast car.

Reach for a Dream is looking for more sponsorships from corporates and volunteers who can help the foundation make more VR kits accessible and available to many more Dreamers across South Africa.

Sponsors, volunteers and content providers who want to get involved in this project are encouraged to visit reachforadream.org.za/get-involved/.

IOL TECH

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