Flying the kite for good mental health

Children were amazed by the big wheel kite.

For the first time in 25 years the annual Cape Town International Kite Festival, hosted by Cape Mental Health, featured a festival parade led by the internationally acclaimed Ashwin Willemse Orient Marching Show Band, from Manenberg.

The festival competition was split into two days – on Saturday October 26 was the EduKite Competition and the next day the Heritage Kite Competition.

Dorothea Special School in Stellenbosch walked away as the winners of the EduKite Competition’s schools for pupils with special educational needs category, and in the primary school category Caravelle Primary School in Mitchell’s Plain was crowned the winners.

In the Heritage Kite Competition’s Swaeltjie Kites category, Jemma and Aqib Kapre from the United Kingdom were the winners, and Gerald Gelderbloem from Parkwood was the winner of the open category.

Every year Cape Mental Health hosts this event as part of their fund-raising programme.

This year the theme was “Let hope fly” and teams from all around the world made their way to Muizenberg to take part in this worthy cause.

Kiters from Bulgaria, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Turkey, England and South Africa took part in the challenge. The pre-event was hosted at Cape Mental Health in Heideveld on Wednesday October 23 where media and kite fliers were taken on a tour of the premises and later children had the opportunity to see kites flying at the Heideveld sports field. Pre-events were also held in Khayelitsha on Thursday October 24 and in Mitchell’s Plain on Friday October 25.

The kite festival is the highlight of Cape Mental Health’s annual October Mental Health Awareness campaign, which this year focuses on suicide awareness and prevention.

It started back in 1994 in Milnerton as a way of bringing the community together and raising awareness about mental health. Over the years the event has grown and can now host up to 18 000 people.

The Ashwin Willemse Orient Marching Show Band was led by more than 50 members and their appearance was a “warm-up” before they head to the Rio Carnival in Brazil in February next year where they will represent South Africa in the world marching band championships.

Fadiel Gasant, president and chief executive officer of the South African Marching Show Band Association, said the band was delighted to have led the parade. He said for the past 18 years the band had received top honours in the World Marching Show Band Competition.

“The band’s objective is to empower youth with musical and physical knowledge, to inspire co-operation, determination, discipline and pride,” he said.

Cape Mental Health in Heideveld, provides free mental health services to more than 21 000 children and adults through 22 programmes and projects.

Ingrid Daniels, the director of Cape Mental Health, said it was important for the community to support this event as funds raised would be ploughed back into the institution.

“It (the pre-events) gives the children who may not be able to make it to Zandvlei an opportunity to see kites flying. The children are very excited and for us this event is very important. We really want to tell people that we all have to take care of our mental health as we constantly only focus on our physical health. People are still afraid to speak about mental health and yet it is the most common of health disorders, she said.

Ms Daniels said kiting was an amazing opportunity for people to come out and enjoy themselves with the vlei and mountains around them.

“The sky becomes their canvas and when the kites go into the sky it soars against strong winds and that is the message that we want to get across – life is full of challenges so if the kite can take up a challenge and soar against the wind, then we can overcome our challenges because the stronger the winds the higher the kite flies,” she said.

Ms Daniels said the goal is for everyone to have access to quality mental health assistance.

“For the next few days the skies of South Africa will be decorated with kites as communities join together from across the world. It is a time for everyone to be given the opportunity to become a child again. Every time you hold onto the string with your feet firmly grounded, you will know that everything will be okay despite your challenges – like the kite flying away in the sky,” she said.