Taniqueka Chetty
Taniqueka Chetty

Children’s ‘dreams’ on hold until after lockdown

By THANDEKA MGQIBI Time of article published Jun 27, 2020

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DURBAN - The Reach For A Dream Foundation, which made the dreams of many children with life-threatening illnesses a reality, has had to put numerous wishes on hold because of the lockdown.

The 32-year-old foundation has branches nationwide and fulfils about 1 600 dreams a year – which averages six dreams a day.

To ensure the safety of children during the pandemic, their wishes are on hold. 

“Unfortunately, with our work being solely with vulnerable and compromised children, we had to put all our dreams and projects on hold when the lockdown happened. We did this to ensure our children’s health and safety. Even though we fulfil dreams, our primary objective is to always ensure the health of our dreamers,” said Kerry Donkin, the KwaZulu-Natal regional manager for the foundation. 

This has in turn had a negative impact on the children, with them having to wait for their dreams to be realised. Some of them lost their fight against their illnesses. 

Donkin said they provided emotional support where possible. 

“We sent messages and videos of support and encouragement to our dreamers-in-waiting from our past dreamers to not give up hope and to keep believing in the power of dreams.”

She added that they were doing all they could to ensure they were ready to fulfil dreams again and as soon as possible. 

“The foundation is still unable to fully resume and reopen our doors. However, we have remained engaged with our dreamers, doctors and families at this time. Hope and dreams are powerful tools in helping children fight their illnesses. We may be in lockdown, but we are not shut down. Therefore, we continue to fight for them and their right to dream.”

Donkin said they were working closely with doctors and nurses on fulfilling urgent dreams, especially with dreamers who are in hospital.

These dreams are being done on a case by case basis.

“For example, one hospitalised dreamer in Kimberley had a dream of getting a laptop, and we arranged and delivered it to her yesterday. The product was completely sterilised and we had it delivered to the doctor in the hospital parking lot. The doctor then handed it to the dreamer.”

Donkin said they took precautions to ensure the health and safety of all involved.  

“We, however, cannot wait to return to fulfilling all our dreamers-in-waiting dreams.”

In KZN, the foundation currently has about 80 dreamers-in-waiting, with more being added daily. One such dreamer is Taniqueka Chetty, 8, from Chatsworth. 

Her mother, Patricia Chetty, said Taniqueka suffered from Ehlers-Danlos syndrome – a disease that weakens the connective tissues of the body. She also had Bell’s palsy, which causes temporary weakness or paralysis of the muscles in the face as well as epilepsy, a neurological disorder in which brain activity becomes abnormal, causing seizures. 

“Taniqueka was born a normal baby and it was only after she turned 1 that she started getting sick and showing symptoms of these illnesses,” said Chetty. 

“After going through many tests, she was finally confirmed and diagnosed when she was 2 years old at the Inkosi Albert Luthuli Central Hospital.” 

Last August, Taniqueka spent two weeks at RK Khan Hospital. Chetty said they were then referred to Julia Amblers, a paediatric palliative care doctor. 

“She is the one who told me about the Reach For A Dream Foundation and approached them on my behalf. She told them about my daughter’s condition and they soon called me and arranged a meeting with Taniqueka.”

Chetty said this took place in February before the lockdown was implemented. 

She said Taniqueka told them about her two dreams – one is to see the Eiffel Tower in France and the other is to see wildlife on a safari.

“She loves wild animals, especially elephants, and she has always dreamt of seeing and touching them. As for the Eiffel Tower, she once saw it in a movie and was blown away by its beautiful lights and its height. Since then, she dreams of seeing it one day.” 

Chetty, 45, is married with four children. She used to work as an accountant at Life Healthcare Hospital in Phoenix, but she left her job four years ago so she could take care of Taniqueka.

“My husband is a truck driver and is the sole provider for our family. With the little that he makes and me being unemployed, we can never afford to make Taniqueka’s dream a reality. 

“That is why I am hoping and praying that the foundation is able to fulfil it. I know that at the moment it’s hard because of the lockdown, but I remain hopeful and patient, no matter how long it takes.”

Donkin said they would work on one of Taniqueka’s dreams and have it all planned as soon as they were allowed to safely do so. 

She said they usually did not tell the families until the dream day and what the actual dream would be “so Taniqueka won’t know until we do her dream what it actually is. This is part of the magic and surprise of a dream day”.

She also encouraged communities to support the foundation in any way possible. 

- THE POST 

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