My name is Terrance Landwehr and Michelle, my 28-year-old daughter, was born a special needs girl and grew up always on the back foot compared to her peers, friends and family of equivalent age and environment. After going through several special schools, she eventually left Unity College at the age of 18 with many achievements under her belt relative to the level of education at Unity College which is a special needs school in Fourways Johannesburg. Unity College’s motto is “To Be The Best You Can Be” and that’s how life was and still is for the students who attend from all walks of life and all socio-economic backgrounds.
Michelle then started working as a volunteer at one of our local nursery schools and was doing well until one day the headmistress called to say we should collect her as she was acting strangely. Soon after that she became catatonic and couldn’t speak and seemed to be in some kind of trance staring into space just mumbling and making jerking movements.
She eventually recovered to the point where she took up residence at Irene Homes in Pretoria which is a facility for mentally challenged woman of all ages. Unfortunately, since the catatonic episode, she has been plagued by intermittent episodes of schizophrenia and psychosis on top of her generic handicaps of being a special needs person.
Charmaine my lovely wife and Michelle’s step Mom has embraced all this baggage in making a life with me for the past seven years and deserves several medals after having gone through some very tough times with Michelle, and as each day goes by I realised how God hand-picked Charmaine to be part of my life.
We moved from Johannesburg two years ago and are now very happy residents of Hillcrest and even happier that we are members of CityHill Church. I have had it on my heart for many years and also believe God’s plan for me is to assist in this arena of mentally challenged people which I am glad to say I have now found in the way of “Molweni Zimele Centre for the mentally and physically handicapped” and naturally Irene Homes where Michelle is still a resident. Zimele is a campus with several buildings owned by Ethekwini Municipality and is located in the Molweni district which is a rural area about 10km East of Watercrest Mall Hillcrest. It is leased to Zimele on a 25-year lease for a nominal amount. The basic activity is a day care centre for mentally and physically disabled children and young adults with varying disabilities. The residents are cared for during the day and engage in various activities and projects to keep them occupied and better their general upliftment form the normal poverty and abuse they experience in the community. The vision for the future is to convert the centre from a daycare facility for 40 individuals to a residential one to provide a safe place for up to 70 venerable students to live.
Before I even knew of Zimele, I took a drive out in the general direction of Molweni hoping to get some inspiration to find a suitable piece of ground to start a facility similar to that of Irene Homes in Pretoria. I didn’t find anything specific on that day, but a few months later Nadine Wright called me and said she would like to introduce me to a facility she thought I might be interested in. We subsequently took a drive out to Zimele and to my
amazement – and what I believed to be God inspired – the Zimele property was about 100 metres from where I had turned my car around a few months before on my quest to find a piece of ground to start a facility.
The rest is history, and since then I have been embraced by Bongi and Zama who run the facility. We now meet on a regular basis helping to plan their future vision of developing the facility from a daycare centre to a residential home which is desperately needed in the Molweni area and all the rural areas of South Africa.
I can only pray that this vision will materialise and become a model for many others to follow as beacons of light in rural areas where centres of excellence are so desperately needed to mentor and assist the local community.
I am confident with Nation Changers behind this initiative we are going to achieve great things and look forward to meeting anyone who is willing to step forward and join this much-needed venture.