The Ann Harding Cheshire Home was established 28 years ago and provides accommodation and care for 38 residents who are physically disabled.
These disabilities have arisen from congenital conditions, muscular or neurological conditions, which are progressive and degenerative or as a result of trauma sustained in motor vehicles accidents, violence etc.
The aim of the organisation is to provide a home to the residents where assistance is given in daily living, but residents are encouraged to help themselves as much as physically possible and to retain their independence and dignity.The residents pay a monthly accommodation fee which is the main source of income for the home. However, this is not enough for our running costs and therefore, the Home relies on the generosity of the local community and businesses. Volunteers play a major role in its work.There is also a charity shop on site which is run by a group of dedicated volunteers and the income derived from this shop is vital for the Home’s continued existence. The shop is open to the public on Tuesday and Thursdays from 9am to 1pm and on Saturdays from 9am to 12pm. The home also has Ronnie Bins for paper collection and Enviroglass containers for glass and the public are encouraged to bring their bottles and papers for disposal.
Rolling Inspiration visited the Ann Harding Cheshire Home recently and spoke to two residents about their experiences, and the circumstances which led them to the Home.
Natasha Swanepoel runs the kitchen at the Ann Harding Cheshire Home in Northwold, Gauteng. Ten days after she finished school a car accident made her a quadriplegic. “After rehabilitation I went home and stayed there about for about three and a half months. I came to Ann Harding Cheshire Home because I had enrolled for a computer course at Access College and it was easier to get there from here.”In the end Natasha never completed her course and also never went home, but opted to stay at Ann Harding Cheshire. She has lived here for 16 years. Natasha says people have the wrong idea of places like the Ann Harding Cheshire Home. “Yes there are people here who need care and could not probably live outside a home such as this, but not everyone is like that.
“It is a misconception that when you live here, it is because you don’t have a life. This is so wrong. I don’t just sit here in my room all day. Very often people come to visit and I am not here. They always seem so surprised when this happens.“I enjoy living here because it gives you an independence you don’t always get when you live at home. For example, here I can come and go as I please. The independence is a real boost. There is a driver so you can do shopping and you are not stuck in one place and there are people to talk to if you want, but you don’t have to either. There is security and 24 hour care. We even have our own pub here.”
Simon Legwale has lived at the Ann Cheshire Home for almost eight years, since he became a quadriplegic through a car accident.
“I am a C4/5 quadriplegic. I still don’t know how I broke my neck, but I am grateful to be alive today. After the accident, when I was in hospital, I felt like my body was there, but that my spirit was watching it. Only people who survive a serious accident can understand that after the accident you chose to live or not – I decided I am strong so I chose to live. It is a mental state.”
Simon is an enthusiastic and lively person. He is 38-years-old and full of plans for the future. He oozes energy. This energy also helped him when he was in rehabilitation at Netcare in Auckland Park for just under a year. “I realised this was serious. I knew nothing or very little about paraplegics and quadriplegics. I needed to find out, but I did not want to do it through others. I told the clinical psychologist at the hospital to leave me alone. I preferred to read books and ask questions. I knew how I felt and I would experience it on my own; right or wrong.”
Simon also started to mobilise himself. “I realised that I needed a motorised wheelchair and that it would help me a lot if my one arm were stronger. So I spent an extra month there so that I could work on my left arm. At first it would feel like I was picking up a 50 kg weight when I attempted to pick up the lightest object.”However, it paid off and he uses his arm to assist him in his daily activities, to operate a computer and his cell phone. “I also took control of my medication. I mean there is nothing wrong with my brain so I can manage to do that.”
However, it was still not easy for him when he got to Ann Harding Cheshire Home. “It was tough for me to adjust. I could hardly do anything. I would just watch television. I decided it was not the type of life I wanted. I am a positive person.” Testimony to this was his struggle to keep his marriage intact. “I was married when I had the accident. Despite my limbs not working, I was still a man and I was also still a husband.” Oddly enough a mere three months before the accident Simon and his wife discussed what they would do if something happened to one of them. “I travelled a lot for my work and the subject came up. My wife said she would leave me if something like that happened. Well, when it did happen she didn’t – well, not at first.” From the books he had read Simon knew it was better that your spouse was not your caregiver as well. “I hired a nurse, and left Ann Hardeing Cheshire and for a while my wife and I lived together in a house in Johannesburg. But the communication between us was not great and our sexual relationship was a problem for her.”
Three years after the accident Simon and his wife did split up. Simon is philosophical about the break up, “Life is a journey and love is what you make of it. If one partner is not happy, sometimes it is just better for both people, to move on.”While his wife and son – who he is very close to – have moved to the Northern Cape, he came back to Ann Harding Cheshire where he is optimistic about the future and where his journey might take him next.