Dear Ponseti friend,
As STEPS starts a new year of supporting children born with clubfoot in southern and east Africa, I reflect on the past year of opportunities, successes and challenges. Every year of life is rich with experience, and running an NGO requires so much emotional input and hard work that it’s only really in the quiet moments when the clinics take a year end break that I have time to look back.
2016 was a year of fast growth for STEPS, we took on new patients, new recruits in three countries, new clinics, new donors, a new awareness campaign, and a whole new province in South Africa. We strategised, networked, and focused on our purpose to improve the lives of children born with clubfoot.
Having said that, our annual report will review what we have achieved in milestones (and there are many). I’d prefer to focus on people, who are the heart of STEPS, and why we are able to achieve so much with a small and dynamic team.
Funding and impact is critical for an NGO, and when we are focused on reaching as many beneficiaries as we can with the most efficient use of donations, while being innovative leaders in the region for clubfoot treatment, our volunteers are the people who make a huge difference to our efforts. I’ll share some of the volunteer stories for 2016, but there are many more who have contributed to STEPS this year, giving of their time to benefit our cause with legal advice, business consulting, graphic design, video production, and other skills. I am so grateful for your quiet and generous support, you know who you are.
Jacque came to us through a TV programme featuring my personal story and STEPS. She was so inspired and excited that she phoned the next day to offer her services. Jacque is an extremely positive person to have in the office, not to mention super stylish. She quietly comes up with ideas that nobody else has thought about to benefit our cause. Her commitment and drive has resulted in Clubfoot Awareness Day being added to the Department of Health calendar from 2017. This is an awesome achievement, many had tried, but only Jacque had the tenacity to keep on phoning to make sure that clubfoot awareness will be officially celebrated for the first time in South Africa on 3rd June 2017, which is also World Clubfoot Day. One person’s efforts made a national difference, which is so inspiring, thank you Jacque.
Anouk volunteers at the busiest clubfoot clinic in South Africa – and probably most of Africa – Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital, in Soweto, Johannesburg. Anouk’s son was successfully treated for clubfoot and she contacted us to ask how she could be involved. My immediate response was, ‘Join the Bara team!’ Every week Anouk is there to support Ursula and Refilwe, our hard-working clinic coordinator and data capturer, with a warm smile and treats for the kids. The reward of seeing those scared families at their first appointment with a tiny baby in casts, to seeing the toddlers racing around the clinic during check-ups, makes Anouk’s work something that she can’t wait for every week. We are grateful for her generosity and humour, and in awe of the amazing trail running adventures that she shares. Watch out next for Anouk doing a fundraising trail run in some exotic location for STEPS.
Janine volunteers at the STEPS office as sustainability manager. During 2016 she has tirelessly driven our brace sourcing and distribution from into a growing programme that has already supplied countries like Madagascar, Botswana, Tanzania and Namibia with the vital clubfoot braces that help to prevent recurrence. Janine’s energy and enthusiasm has brought new ideas into our office and encouraged us to see things from another perspective which is refreshing and helped us to grow as an organisation. A huge thank you to Janine for your generosity, kindness, humour and passion. Your effort has impacted scores of lives already and there will be many more to come in 2017!
Then there are the Ponseti parents, always our champions. This year, they put in an incredible effort for our first Laces for Braces campaign, selling laces and raising funds privately and through schools for a combined effort, which supports the treatment of six more children for four years. Thank you for paying it forward. The parents you have helped will never know who you are, but your support will make their child’s treatment journey a little lighter and happier. Thank you!
A huge thanks to our volunteer doctors who have joined us to train and mentor start-up clinics in new areas, and to sharpen skills at existing clinics. These Ponseti faculty doctors take time off from extremely busy state clinics, sacrificing their precious leisure time to share their knowledge and inspire more people to be as passionate about clubfoot treatment as they are. I look forward to a year rich in expertise as we share the Ponseti method with more people in South Africa and elsewhere in Africa. Many of you have been on this Ponseti journey with me for over a decade and I admire your dedication and appreciate your support.
I wish you all a wonderful 2017. A huge thank you to the clubfoot champions who supported us last year, and to those who are part of our team of supporters for 2017, I am grateful to every one of you. As you have seen, the effort of one person makes such a difference. Please join our cause, it is really rewarding!
In closing, I would like to request any corporate who is reading this letter to consider supporting a salary for our wonderful team. STEPS exists because of our shared passion for our cause, positive energy and motivated people. Not only will you be helping a fantastic cause, but there are potential tax benefits. Please email me for more information at firstname.lastname@example.org
With warmest wishes from the fairest Cape at the southern tip of Africa
Founder and Executive Director, STEPS Charity NPC,
Chairperson, STEPS Botswana Trust
Director, STEPS Namibia Clubfoot Programme