17 November 2016 – More than 150 people being cared for by Southern Free State Mental Health will enjoy a better Christmas because of the work of the Saint Andrew’s Junior Interact Society and the generosity of the Saints’ junior school boys.
At Chapel on Wednesday this week, they presented Cornel Odendaal, a student social worker with Southern Free State Mental Health (Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/southernfreestate.mentalhealth), with Christmas gift packs for her patients.
The Saint Andrew’s Junior Interact Society boys show off the items they donated to Southern Free State Mental Health with social worker Cornel Odendaal and Saints’ teacher Mizanne Connan
The initiative had begun when she approached Saints’ teacher Mizanne Connan, who oversees the Junior Interact Society, for assistance in putting together gift bags for the people with intellectual disabilities and psychiatric issues with whom Odendaal works.
She requested at least 150 of the gift parcels, which would include soap, face cloths, deodorant, a tooth brush, toothpaste and other toiletries.
“I did a presentation along with the Junior Interact boys, where they announced in Chapel the different items needed, and why we were doing it. We also explained what intellectual disabilities and physical disabilities are about,” Mrs Connan said.
“We asked what the boys wanted for Christmas and they said cell phones and video games, but they were quite shocked when we said there are other people who don’t want these things. They want face cloths and tooth brushes and all the things that we take for granted.
“The boys were asked if they would like to donate. I had boxes for each item.”
The response was fantastic. Some boys even bought items like tooth brushes and tooth paste in bulk packs and the 150 parcels needed was exceeded.
“Some of the grade threes actually brought the items in little Christmas bags, with little cards wishing a merry Christmas. It was very sweet,” Mrs Connan said.
Time to load up the Christmas gifts for Southern Free State Mental Health
The support of groups like the Saint Andrew’s Junior Interact Society plays a crucial role in supporting people with various disabilities, Odendaal explained: “During my practical experience, I got exposed to the intellectual disability and psychiatric disorder side of social work. Social work is an under-funded profession. We are all non-governmental organisations and lack funds. We need to reach out to other people to get donations and funds to render the best possible services to our clients.”
She added: “There is a big demand for social work, especially from people who live in poverty, because they cannot afford services, which we render for free. Many people can’t afford to see psychologists. It is too expensive.”
Incredibly busy and productive
The past year has been an incredibly busy and productive one for the Junior Interact Society. They provide sandwiches every Friday for St Mary’s, and this year there were further special sarmie collections for Valentine’s Day and Mandela Day.
They collect blankets for the Universitas Hospital Neonatal Unit, animal food for New Beginnings, and old and new stationery for CREDO.
In addition, they held a Teddy Bear picnic in conjunction with Carols @ Saints, fund-raised for CANSA with a Shavathon, provided care bags for the underprivileged, collected water for drought-stricken areas, and celebrated Teachers’ Day and Spring Day.