In July, the Rotary Club of Borrowdale Brooke hosted a celebration at Pathways Autism Centre of Excellence (PACE) in Marlborough. The event was to celebrate the Rotary Club’s donation of outdoor equipment – an all-in-one jungle gym with a slide and swings – to Pathways Autism Trust (PAT), for the benefit of children enrolled at PACE.
PAT has been actively involved in advocacy and raising awareness on autism in Zimbabwe since its inception, and continues to engage Government including the Ministry of Health and Child Care, the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education, and the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare to recognise autism as an issue that is a reality for many individuals and their families in Zimbabwe.
Autism is a mental condition present from early childhood, characterized by great difficulty in communicating, forming relationships with other people, and in using language and abstract concepts. It is also characterized by restricted, repetitive patterns of behaviour, interests or activities. Autism manifests on a spectrum ranging from mild to severe. Individuals with autism are often described as ‘locked in their own world’. At the same time, those on the autism spectrum sometimes have very special talents and capabilities that need an outlet to be unlocked. Statistically, it is estimated that autism affects one in 68 people worldwide.
Rotarians, Pathways Trustees, PACE staff, members of the community, parents and children from the Centre attended the official handover of equipment at PACE. It was a fun-filled and enjoyable afternoon, with a braai for attendees. The President of the Rotary Club of Borrowdale Brooke, Ann Hamilton-King, also donated soft toys, towels, puzzles and books to the centre.
Rotary of Borrowdale Brooke has in the past held a fundraising fashion show and cocktail to benefit PAT, and also sponsored the entire staff of PACE to be trained at the Johannesburg Hospital School, in a methodology geared towards helping autistic learners. Those benefitting from the training included an occupational therapist, a psychologist, a rehabilitation technician, an early childhood development teacher, a nurse aide, and the Principal Director. This was in line with PAT’s goal to establish and operate a centre of excellence for the education and therapy of children with autism in Zimbabwe.
Because PAT was founded by the parents of affected children, its inspiration is from the heart, and it aims to help as many families as it can, without limitations of geographical location, social status, race, language, or culture. PAT has a Parents Support Network with about 50 families subscribed. They communicate on WhatsApp and meet to share information show support.
To find out more, contact Pathways Autism Trust on 0776 741 024 or visit their Facebook page
This article was written by Gordon Chinhaire. Image from Pathways Autism Trust.