Pupils at special-needs school need a push towards optimism

Charlene Isaacs at one of the bathrooms needing renovations at Astra Special School in Montana. Picture: Brendan Magaar

Charlene Isaacs at one of the bathrooms needing renovations at Astra Special School in Montana. Picture: Brendan Magaar

Published Sep 3, 2022


Donate towards The Little Optimist Trust and help give the physically and mentally challenged children at Astra Special School in Montana a comfortable learning and living environment.

The trust is racing against time to raise the funds to revamp the school's hostel and bathrooms next month.

The facility caters for about 40 of the 160 pupils between the ages of five at 18 attending the school.

Greg Bertish, the founder of the Trust, said they need still need R65 000 to make the project a success. The amount will cover the payment of a contractor.

“We have done a number of programmes for their kids and we are now also helping to renovate and upgrade their dormitory and bathrooms at the school. As they are in such poor state.

“Bathing is a challenge for wheelchair users in particular, as the showers are not in working order, and the pupils are currently unable to shower while seated,” said Bertish.

Bertish launched the campaign and was fortunate to partner with a tiling company which helped to cut the costs through fundraising initiatives and sponsoring tiles, baths, and basins to the value of R133 000.

“We have all the materials and are ready to go as soon as we get the funds. We have started a back-a-buddy campaign to raise the funds,” added Bertish.

He offers free sailing lessons to some of the pupils at the school and he realised his wish to inspire and stimulate the minds of these children wouldn't be satisfactory if they had to struggle because of poor infrastructure.

“We host the Astra school kids at our sailing academy. The Little Optimist Sailing Therapy Programme is fun, educational and inspiring for marginalised kids.”

Grade 4 pupil Angelo Lakey said: “Mr Greg Bertish told us his story that made me decide not to stop feeling sorry for myself because I'm in a wheelchair. I could not believe I could sail on my own. I enjoyed every moment.”

However, they needed more than that.

“Our rooms need painting, toilet seats, the taps, the doors are broken. Our rooms do not feel like home. It feels cold and sometimes it makes me feel more ill when I am not feeling well. Our staff is doing a lot to make us feel at home, but we need the people's support to assist our principal,” Lakey said.

Astra School principal Melanie Mabotha said the facilities were 34 years old and were dilapidated, hindering them from leading by example when it came to hygiene.

For donations visit https://bit.ly/3KxAbTM

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