In celebration of Youth Month and to create awareness around autism, a 15-year-old entrepreneur hosted 100 special-needs youth and their carers at a cookie and cupcake decorating event.
Joshua Sandy was diagnosed with autism at the age of 2. His parents, Sandy Pekeur-Sandy and Marc Sandy, launched the Nosh for Josh Foundation to create awareness around autism.
In April, the foundation launched Be My Voice Cookies to fund its work and help Joshua and his peers earn a living.
The cookies are sold in four colours – blue for autism awareness, red for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), yellow for Down syndrome and green for mental wellness.
On Thursday June 16, the Dulcie September Civic Centre in Athlone was a hive of activity when the 100 special-needs youths decorated 2 500 cookies and 500 cupcakes, which were pre-baked for the event.
Ms Pekeur-Sandy said that for some of the young people at the event, it was their first time outside their homes in a very long time.
“The need is great, and many parents did not realise that their children can help them with baking – even if it is to just sieve the icing sugar. As parents of a special-needs child, our fear is what would happen to him in future. We didn’t put money aside for university, like other parents might do. Our aim is to do economic development, so that young people like Joshua can earn a stipend. We are pushing for our own kitchen, and we are also doing awareness campaigns,” Ms Pekeur-Sandy said.
Marc Lottering was among the guest speakers at the event.
He said: “I received so many invites to different events, but being here places me in an environment where I would not normally be. Here is a 15-year-old with autism using his difference to make a difference. I am attracted to that because I grew up different. I was raised in a hetero male environment and I was embraced by South Africa because of my difference. I love celebrating being different. Also, one knows so little about it and only becomes in touch with it if it’s in your family.”
Ayub Mohamed, facilitator at Warrior on Wheels, an organisation that does special events with children who are physically disabled, said awareness events like this were much needed.
“We can’t keep our children away. They must be included. For our organisation, we have specially designed buggies being pulled by cyclists during the Cape Town Cycle Tour, for example,” Mr Mohamed said.
Dan Plato, former mayor and now member of the provincial parliament, was also there to encourage the youth to make use of the opportunities presented to them.