Tokiso's Story by Jan Jeffrey

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I met Tokiso at Phelisanong orphanage, in Lesotho, while working as a Physiotherapist on the International Learning Opportunities Programme in March 2016. I was immediately struck by his smile, he just shined. Mamello, the manager of Phelisanong, told me how he came to the orphanage. She said his teenage mum had a boyfriend who left her pregnant and with HIV. When Tokiso was born he also had HIV and was born disabled. Unable to walk he had no chance to go to school, even though he was a smart boy.

One day the priest heard someone crying in church, it was Tokiso’s mother. When he asked her what was the matter, she told him about Tokiso and that she didn’t know how he would ever be able to go to school. The priest called Mamello and begged her to take Tokiso so that he could have the opportunity to go to the primary school, which is situated next to the orphanage. The orphanage is very overcrowded, most children have to sleep two in a bed, but Mamello agreed to take him. Now everyday Tokiso goes to school in a wheelchair.     

I set up a physiotherapy room at Phelisanong, the orphanage had no resources and the charity, Sentebale, that I was working for, sent some toys for the children. The room was small and I could only take a few children at a time, and I remember choosing Tokiso and him punching the air with delight, saying “Yes! Yes! Yes!” I’ve never had anyone react to physiotherapy that way before. I could see that with the aid of a walking frame Tokiso would be able to walk. The only walking aid at the orphanage was one rather battered adult size Zimmer frame, much too big for a seven-year-old.

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I knew the previous orphanage I had worked at had three small children’s frames, that weren’t being used, I begged for these to be sent to Phelisanong. When they turned up the first children to try them were Tokiso and his friend Kolosa. I have put a video up on YouTube which shows the utter joy on Tokiso’s face when he gets this chance for some independence in his life.

Every day we would walk and Tokiso told how he was training to get fitter so that one day he could walk to school.  Although it is only about 200 metres from Tokiso’s house to school it will not be possible for him to walk to school using his current Zimmer frame. The path breaks up towards the school and he would need off road wheels. Also the strain on his arms means he would need to rest.

Having discussed it with the paediatric physiotherapist I work with in Powys, she has recommended a Kaye walker, with off road wheels and a seat. A Quest 88 of this spec would cost £812.40 including VAT. I would like to take this walker out to Tokiso when I return to Lesotho in February 2017 and make his dream to walk to school come true.    

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