Chaeili Mycroft - an ability activist
By Rudina Vojvoda
NEW YORK, 21 February 2012 – In November 2011 Michaela (Chaeli) Mycroft was awarded the International Children’s Peace Prize for her work and commitment to the rights of disabled children in South Africa.
In 2004, nine-years old Chaeli together with and her sister and friends started what is known as the Chaeli Campaign, an organization that provides equipment, physical therapy and programs to children with disabilities.
UNICEF podcast moderator Femi Oke spoke with Chaeli about inclusive education and Chaeli’s plans for the future.
“The disabled child is worth everyday”
When Chaeli started her campaign, her initial thought was to raise enough money to buy a motorized wheelchair for herself. Born with Cerebral Palsy, she has limited function in her legs and arms. Her sister and two best friends made postcards with their artwork which they started to sell in the streets. In less than seven weeks, the girls had raised enough money to buy a wheelchair. Witnessing their success, they continued to fight for the rights and inclusion of children with disabilities in South Africa.
Remembering the birth of the campaign and that made it successful, Chaeli said: “We were working as a team and we have been a team for our entire lives. We are very good at working together and we have a connection that really worked in our favour. I also knew that it was a good thing for me so I was motivated”.
The campaign grew. Currently there are more than twenty professional employees working in a variety of programs ranging from physiotherapy, speech and occupational therapy to providing custom-made assistance devices to improve posture. The campaign also works on education programs that support the inclusion of children with disabilities into mainstream schools.
“We believe that inclusive education can really happen if a person with disability is supported”, said Chaeli, adding that families, teachers and students who are part of the disabled child’s life need support as well. “The disabled child is worth everyday….getting kids to mainstream environments is the first step to inclusive education”, said Chaeli.
As the winner of the Children’s Peace Prize, Chaeli is entitled to fund of €100,000 that will be spend on projects that aim to improve the life of disabled children and their inclusion in every aspect of life. For Chaeli the prize is already started to show its fruits. “It has given me an international platform to share my message and it’s going to bring a lot of exciting opportunities”, said Chaeli.
Discussing her future plans, Chaeli said that she wants to do more and she is optimistic for the future. “I am going to be an ability activist but I also want to become known for things that I do as an adult as well as being known for the Chaeli Campaign. I want to have my own identity that is not just the kid that started the organization. I am excited for the future, it’s gone be good”, concluded Chaeli.