When Faseegha Coetzee discovered that she will be giving birth to a Down syndrome child, one of the first options that doctors gave her was to have an abortion.
Choosing to keep the bundle of joy growing inside her, the 44-year-old mother says six years later her decision has been nothing but a blessing.
Despite the fact that Coetzee’s daughter only started to walk and talk after the age of two, she says her child has been progressing exceptionally well ever since.
A few months after giving birth to Shaziah, Coetzee and her husband Shafiek started the Genes to Success initiative to get a better understanding of the genetic disorder that their child was living with.
The couple’s organisation has since grown to a point where several programmes are rolled out on the Cape Flats to educate other parents who are in the same position.
The family from Bonteheuwel are now trying to raise funds to attend a two-month educational programme in America later this year.
Their daughter has been given the opportunity to attend Gigi’s Playhouse in Phoenix, Arizona. The international organisation provides specialized teaching and support to families and children with Down syndrome.
But the family’s hope to attend the programme will only materialize once they have raised enough funds for the trip.
“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity. It is not every day that we are able to attend an international programme that will not only help our daughter and family but also other parents who are raising children with Down syndrome in Cape Town,” explains the mother.
“I want to bring home the knowledge of those working at the international centre, with the hopes of educating people in my own community.
“This programme and what it will teach us could even change the spectrum for children with Down syndrome in our country (South Africa),” she says.
Coetzee only managed to raise R15 000 thus far, and will, therefore, host several fundraising events to cover the remaining cost of the trip.
“It will only be myself and Shaziah who will take on the journey to attend the programme in America. R40 000 is needed for both of us, to cover the cost of visas and return tickets. We are sorted with accommodation.
“We will host several events in the next few months and urge the public to support us in this regard. An upcoming fundraiser event includes a high tea on Saturday 21st April that will take place from 13:30 at Rylands Civic Centre. Tickets for the event is only R100 and will include live entertainment.”
Coetzee’s husband Shafiek explains that children with special needs must be seen, not only at certain places but everywhere in society.
“There need to be more jobs created for them as well, in order for them to feel as if they are not left out. We shouldn’t keep them in the back of a room, locked away, to do nothing.
“People with Down syndrome are human beings as well. As a child, I grew up mocking children with this type of genetic disorder. We were not educated and told that it was wrong at the time.
“And now Allah (swt) has granted me a child with the same illness. It has been a challenging journey, but we are learning every day and we want the people in our community to also learn more about children with Down syndrome.
He said the family has approached several government departments for assistance, but no response has been given to date.
“We are urging the government to support organisations like the Jeans to Success initiative, in order to raise more awareness on the illness.
“This trip is very important, not only for my family but also for the broader community.
“This international organisation has more advanced technology and ways to work with Down syndrome children, than what we have in our own country.
“With my wife and my daughter participating in the programme, I am hopeful that we will roll out new and advanced programmes in our own communities after they return,” adds the emotional fathers.
The Coetzee family need to have all the funds gathered by the end of May. If you would like to assist, contact Faseegha or Shafiek Coetzee on 064 199 2819 or visit The Genes to Success Facebook page. Aishah Cassiem (Deen Times)