On 11 September 2023, the South African Paediatric Association (SAPA) bestowed a remarkable honour upon the Tuks Children's Trust (TCT) at the University of Pretoria by recognising the student-led organisation as the best Care Bear organisation for 2023. This remarkable achievement is the result of eight years of unwavering commitment to improving child health and well-being in South Africa.
SAPA, an organisation dedicated to advancing paediatric care and well-being, annually hosts the SAPA Care Bear challenge. This initiative promotes projects that create compassionate and sustainable environments within the paediatric community. Projects from individuals, private paediatric practices, and state paediatric departments across the country are eligible to submit their initiatives for consideration. Among nationwide entries, TCT was selected as the best project. This recognition comes with a substantial R20 000 donation, which will be instrumental in furthering their impactful work.
Founded in 2015 by Dr Gabriel Nel, from the Department of Paediatrics and Child Health in the Faculty of Health Sciences, TCT started as a small undergraduate student organisation, the first of its kind in the country. Dr Nel shared his inspiration behind founding TCT, stating, "I was inspired to found TCT when I realised how deeply I wanted to affect change in South Africa and specifically in the lives of South African children. While I had this huge desire to make a difference, I had no dedicated platform to do so as an undergraduate student."
Reflecting on the journey that led to this remarkable recognition, Dr Nel, the visionary behind TCT, shared a touching story that vividly illustrates the organisation’s mission and impact:
“TCT had its humble beginnings in a small lecture room in HW Snyman back in 2015. Brought together by my vision, we were a group of just five students who shared one common goal – to ‘Enhance Child Health – Transform a Child’s Future’. We understood that significant change often starts from modest beginnings, and our unwavering belief in our purpose fuelled our journey.”
This poignant story encapsulates the early days of TCT, where a small group of dedicated students with a shared vision took their first steps towards making a difference.
Over the years, TCT evolved from a fundraising organisation for children's hospitals into an organisation that actively engaged with the community through various outreach initiatives. Dr Nel expressed his gratitude, stating, "TCT has been run for eight years by committed undergraduate students and has grown from strength to strength primarily due to these students' efforts."
TCT's impact on improving child health and well-being in South Africa is remarkable. They have been involved in outreach events at orphanages, underprivileged schools, paediatric and postnatal wards, informal settlements, and homeless support in Pretoria. Their advocacy efforts extend to social media campaigns, highlighting challenges faced by various paediatric communities, and supporting caregivers in orphanage homes and places of safety.
In addition to their own initiatives, TCT collaborates with organisations such as Beanies4babies, Breadtags, and Surgeons for Little Lives to further enrich the lives of children in need.
The South African Paediatric Association recognised TCT as the best Care Bear organisation in 2023 as part of the SAPA Care Bear challenge, which promotes compassionate and sustainable projects within the paediatric community. TCT was selected based on its significant contributions to community engagement, child advocacy, equality, inclusivity, and other factors.
Undergraduate students, including Kiara Memdutt and Biancia Basilio, have played pivotal roles in TCT's success. Memdutt, the current chairperson of TCT, and Basilio, the vice-chairperson, have led efforts to expand TCT's reach and impact, raising substantial funds and developing innovative projects.
Individuals interested in supporting TCT's mission can connect with the organisation through social media (Instagram: @tuks_tct) or email ([email protected]). TCT welcomes support in various forms, from direct funding to contributions of items used in their projects and expertise from paediatricians and philanthropists.
As TCT continues to grow and evolve, its future goals include expanding outreach and community involvement, and making a positive impact on the lives of even more children in South African communities. The UP Department of Paediatrics and Child Health has been a valuable partner, and further collaboration with paediatric departments across the country is on the horizon.