Boy charms a park for school

Latita Lekeala gets to grips with the monkey bars.

A boy’s unique talent for socialising helped his school to get a much-needed play park.

Cecil Muller was 17 years old and milling around the Promenade Mall when he walked up to a stranger and started chatting to her.

The woman, Caroline Hendricks of Eastridge, was concerned that the young – he appears much younger than he is – and disabled boy was alone. She took him home but not before Cecil had worked all his magic on her.

He had told her about his home, his family, his school and how he was collected by bus at his home every day.

Ms Hendricks had never heard of Lentegeur School for Learners with Special Educational Needs (LSEN) and went to enquire about it. “I’m sad to say I never knew the school existed,” she said.

She visited the school for the first time in 2016 and occupational therapists gave her a tour. At the end she asked: “What can I do to help you?”

To the school the question was an easy one – they were unanimous in asking for a play park.

Lentegeur LSEN occupational therapist Jo Deane said play is an important part of any child’s development. “Our children don’t get enough opportunity to play in safe environments in their communities,” she said, adding that parks for children with special needs were especially rare.

“Children need to roll in the sand, hang upside down from the monkey bars and run freely. All of these activities are the foundation for growth and development in children.”

Ms Hendricks worked for the Nordex Group, an international renewable energy company, and that year the group hosted its Socio-Economic Development Awards. Staff were asked to identify socio-economic development projects in their communities.

“Our senior accountant, Caroline Hendricks from Mitchell’s Plain, identified this project. The project was an overall winner in the awards and it received R45 000,” said Nomzamo Landingwe-Mcoso, BBBEE Strategist at Nordex Group.

But it soon became clear that the R45 000 was not nearly enough to build a park. So the company sponsored another R300 000 and construction began in earnest in last year.

On Thursday February 22, a year-and-a-half after Cecil’s fortuitous mall meeting, the park named in his honour was officially opened and Cecil, now 19 and an ex-pupil having graduated last year, was invited specially to cut the ribbon.

“Cecil, you are our hero,” said occupational therapist Antoinette Davids.

When asked how he felt about the park, Cecil said: “Baie dankie. Ek is lief vir julle almal.”