Pool hoist changing lives

Merryvale welcomes new principal, donation of equipment to aid pupils’ vital physiotherapy sessions

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Merryvale School for Specialised Education received a much-needed lift in the form of their state-of-the-art hydropool hoist, in addition to welcoming their new principal Dr Sharon Townsend.Townsend, who boasts more than three decades of teaching experience, took the helm in March after former principal Mario Engelbrecht retired late last year.Townsend, 58, said she had an inherrant sense of compassion and received an overwhelming sense of satisfaction working with special needs children.“I have always had a special place for these kids and now that I am here [at Merryvale] I am truly experiencing job satisfaction,” Townsend said.She said she intended to use her passion for the pupils to establish more sheltered employment for them, skills development of both pupils and staff, as well as create engagement sessions and improve understanding of specialised education for the public.“The biggest challenge at the moment is to create sheltered employment for our pupils. We have a big problem with pupils finishing school, unable to find work because of their limitations. Hence the importance of the public’s understanding of their barriers.“Our kids can wash cars, pack shelves, sweep floors and complete other simple tasks.“So we implore Port Elizabeth business to give them the opportunities and provide that sense of completion and security not only for the pupils but their families, whose biggest concern ‘is what happens to my special needs child when I’m gone’.”Earlier this month the school experienced the generosity of some of the Bay’s business people, who donated funding through the Barney’s Tavern Golf Day, to purchase and install a hydro-pool hoist valued at R40,000.Through a partnership with The Rotary Club of Port Elizabeth South and Barney’s, the school acquired the hoist which will resolve the issue of having to physically lift pupils in and out of the school pool, according to teacher Antoinette Esterhuyse.“Some of these pupils have very low muscle density, and can get seriously injured during the simple task of getting into the pool,” Esterhuyse said.“We have been struggling for five years to get the hoist, but never had the funding.“To see how those business people just came forward and offered their help showed me that we are not only the friendly city, but the compassionate city as well.”School physiotherapist Christel Boolsen said hydrotherapy was particularly beneficial in terms of strength for the fragile bodies of the pupils, who attend twice a week.“Hydrotherapy plays a major role in strengthening the children, not only in terms of their muscles but also brain, bodily functions and reflexes.“Water stimulates the entire body and its functions, it even releases the feel-good hormones,” she said.“The joy the water brings to these children is unbelievable.“To see a child who is barely able to stand by themselves, walking across the pool unaided gives them and us a great sense of accomplishment.”

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