Eastern Cape Childhood Cancer Foundation [Choc] regional chair Mbulelo Plaatjie is a busy man.
Despite being fully employed, Plaatjie finds time to raise funds and to drive awareness campaigns at schools and churches. In between he visits sick children at Frere Hospital’s paediatric oncology ward.
“Children are our future and we are losing our future leaders to cancer,” Plaatjie said.
“Often it is simply because they do not have access to health care, one of their basic rights. It is unacceptable.”
Though the Covid-19 pandemic hampered outreach programmes, Plaatjie used social media to spread awareness and raise funds for Choc.
In the past he volunteered for the Heart Foundation in Port Elizabeth before he moved to Cape Town, where he joined Friends of the Red Cross and later the Amy Biehl Foundation.
Plaatjie represents Choc’s regional branch on the national board.
He is also the deputy director of the social housing unit in the department of human settlements.
With the help of medical professionals, as well as dedicated volunteers such as Plaatjie, Choc Eastern Cape has supported 768 children and teenagers living with cancer.
“I started volunteering for Choc a short while after I moved to East London,” Plaatjie said.
“It’s given me an amazing opportunity to still be involved and assist in the medical field and in children’s health care.”
During the pandemic, he risked his own health by teaching people standing in long queues about the importance of social distancing
“After being infected with Covid-19 and isolated myself, I realised there is a stigma about people who have been affected.
“I decided to initiate an awareness campaign, ‘Save SA, we can beat Covid-19’, to inform and educate people about the virus.
“With the R350 relief funds being distributed at post offices, people tend to forget about preventing themselves from contracting the virus, so I made it a point of reminding them about this deadly disease.
“We may be at level 2, but that doesn’t mean the virus has gone.”
The children’s rights activist is not letting the global pandemic put him off his stride.
He will be expanding his efforts to teach community workers in a small village near Stutterheim about children’s rights and the coronavirus.
Colleague Ntombehlubi Damane said during Child Protection Week this year, Paatjie had held a street demonstration in Beacon Bay to promote children’s rights.
“He is in full-time employment in the Eastern Cape department of human settlements, but still makes time for the community,” Damane said.
“I just admire the fact that he still finds time in his busy work schedule to volunteer and work for the community.
“He sometimes has to take official leave from work to attend awareness sessions and talk about the warning signs of childhood cancer at community functions. He makes so many sacrifices for the community.”