Health, Funding, March 29, 2021, 8:04 p.m.

Making dreams come alive in the face of incredible challenges


While business losses during the Covid-19 pandemic and national lockdown have been well documented, NGOs and charities have been similarly affected given that their fundraising efforts were largely put on hold.

For the Reach for a Dream Foundation, an NGO established to make dreams come true for children aged three to 18 fighting life-threatening illnesses, the challenge was compounded by the fact that the organisation was unable to make dreams come true during the lockdown in the same way that it had done previously.

“Reach for a Dream’s largest fundraiser, Slipper Day, did not happen in 2020 as a result of the pandemic,” reports the foundation’s Marketing Manager, Roxanne Manuel. “We therefore tried our very best to raise funds virtually through online events and auctions. At the same time we could no longer go to hospitals to fulfil the dreams of children facing life-threatening illnesses. That meant we had to find new ways of engaging with dreamers.”

Like many organisations around the world, Reach for a Dream turned to digital technologies as a solution and by the end of 2020 had introduced virtual reality experiences. “We are now looking for donors and content creators to sponsor the foundation in order to make more virtual reality kits available to more hospitals,” says Manuel. “To date seven kits have been sold. Of these, one is at Charlotte Maxeke Hospital and the rest are currently being rolled out.”

The aim of the virtual reality kits is to give dreamers virtual reality experiences in order to inspire their imaginations and provide them with some joy as they battle their illnesses, reveals Manuel.

She adds that the foundation’s ability to continue to inspire dreamers has become even more important during the pandemic given that many of these children feel even more isolated from society than they would normally.

“Both the children suffering from a life threatening medical condition and their families are placed under enormous psychological, financial and emotional stress. We try to alleviate that stress in a small way by realising one of the children’s dreams which, in the past, could have included meeting somebody famous, having an experience such as a helicopter trip, seeing the sea, or having a bedroom makeover. Essentially, it’s about inspiring hope and giving them a reason to keep fighting,” explains Manuel.

During the pandemic in 2020 Infection Protection Products – the manufacturers of the Sanitouch range of products which includes medical-grade sanitisers and a range of sanitiser wipes - donated 250 specially branded boxes which contained a sanitising spray, a sanitising wipes container, a packet of wipes and a special cleaning wipe which were distributed to dreamers in Gauteng with life threatening illnesses.

“These packs provided much needed sanitising products to families who could not afford quality sanitiser products,” reveals Manuel, adding that the products allowed dreamers to sanitise and keep safe long after the dream and showed dreamers that they had not been forgotten amidst the pandemic.