Project gives babies a second chance

The Bhabhisana Baby Project provides treatment for babies who may have delays in development or disabilities.

Rachmat Burton thought her baby would never walk due to a brain abnormality but with the help of the Bhabhisana Baby Project, 18-month-old Raeesa started walking last month.

Bhabhisana, which operates under the Chaeli Campaign, an NPO, was formed in August 2015 and provides treatment to families who have discovered that their babies are not developing at the same pace as their peers but are unable to afford private health care.

Some of these high risk babies may have permanent delays or disabilities.

Ms Burton said Raeesa was born at Mowbray Maternity Hospital in May last year when doctors noticed that the right side of her brain was bigger than the left and they referred her to Bhabhisana for treatment the following month.

There she said therapists noticed that Raeesa had a limp in her right leg and her left leg was stiff. After months of therapy, Raeesa has finally started walking.

“I never thought that my child would walk but the work that they do is amazing.

“She has been progressing so well and now she is up and down. She responds to everything that we tell her to do,” said Ms Burton.

One Monday a month, the organisation trains parents and treats children at their offices based in Belgravia.

They have a speech therapist, occupational therapist and physiotherapist and show parents how to assist with the child’s development until the next appointment.

On the other three Mondays, therapists visit Hanover Park, Mitchell’s Plain and Gugulethu community health centres where they work with doctors to diagnose and help children and if needed the children then start treatment at Bhabhisana.

Co-founder and speech therapist, Faizah Toefy, said the idea for the organisation came about when she and other therapists who had worked at state hospitals realised that children were being diagnosed too late as they were placed on long waiting lists.

She said the first 1 000 days of a child’s brain development was critical.

“These children were only being seen to at the age of 3 or 4 and that was far too late. This organisation was well received by doctors at hospitals because now they had a place to refer the children to.”

Ms Toefy said premature babies were affected the worst as they were often kept in hospital for about two months after birth and their parents were only told later if they had brain damage or other problems.

“They come here with no hope left and then they learn more about their child’s problem and through training and treatment they get that hope back. This is not a hospital setting where parents often feel scared; here they can be relaxed, ask questions and express their emotions,” she said.

Ms Toefy said seeing the change in children after just a short time inspired her to keep doing her job.

“When parents tell us what an improvement their child has made it really motivates us to keep going. We are very humbled as therapists because it is a very rough journey for these parents,” she said.

The Bhabhisana Baby Project will celebrate their birthday at the Kids Shack in Wynberg on Thursday November 29.

For more information, call 082 924 2965.