Rotarians make giving child’s play

Police officers checking documents.

Staff at the Carel du Toit Centre for children with hearing impairments are excited about the centre’s new tennis and netball court, saying it will help pupils with balance, co-ordination and communication.

Members of the Bristol Breakfast Rotary and Bellville Rotary clubs – the driving forces behind the project – attended the official opening of the new facilities on Thursday February 9.

The clubs linked up last year to make the project a reality. It’s something particularly close to the heart of Sue Pietersen, the chairwoman of the UK-based Bristol Breakfast Rotary Club, whose son, Hugh, was at Carel du Toit for three years.

They both flew down especially for the event.

“We have done many projects and fund-raising initiatives across the country, and from Gambia to Kenya, but this one is more personal for me as this centre helped my son and still continues to help, whenever we need assistance,” said Ms Pietersen.

Carel du Toit Centre principal Adri Combrinck said the opening of the netball and tennis court was the fulfilment of a dream by Ruth Bourne, the centre’s former principal, who had started working on it last year.

Work on the tennis and netball court started in May and was completed by October. The project was led by Bellville Rotary Club members Jan Leerkamp and Mike Rosewall, who made sure it was finished on time and within budget.

Ms Pietersen said the project would not have been possible without Bellville Rotary Club and she thanked them for their commitment.

“As a parent of a child who has a hearing impairment, I know just what this means for them,” she said.

Ms Pietersen said the new sports facilities would help the pupils with co-ordination and communication.

Bellville Rotary Club president David Holtzhausen said it was a privilege to be part of the project and to work with people who were passionate about their community.

Mr Leekamp and Mr Rosewall were both awarded the Paul Harris Sapphire, one of the highest pins Rotary members can get, for their work on the project.

“This project highlighted the commitment of our members and what we as a Rotary club stand for, which is to be of ‘service’ to others,” he said.

Ms Combrinck said sport helped the centre’s pupils adapt to mainstream schools.

Ms Pietersen officially opened the court, and pupils later showed some of the tennis and netball moves they have already picked up.

The Carel du Toit Centre offers a structured pre-primary school environment with an early intervention programme, as well as a foundation phase from Grade 1 to Grade 3 in English and Afrikaans. Pupils leave the centre’s programme when they are ready to enter mainstream schools or have reached the end of the school’s foundation phase.

The Carel du Toit Centre was founded by Professor Carel du Toit, an ear, nose and throat surgeon and head of the ENT Department at Tygerberg Hospital.

On a visit to the UK in 1963, he met Professor Edith Whetnall, an ENT working with young deaf children. She believed that through early intervention, a deaf child could learn spoken language.

This inspired Professor Du Toit to start the Carel du Toit Centre, on his return to South Africa, which was open to all regardless of race, religion or gender.