The Mitchell House Enrichment Centre, also known as Pathways-Polokwane, is a haven in the heart of the city that is going from strength to strength and even plans for expansion in the near future.
During a recent visit to the centre, it became evident that the staff are performing miracles in the lives of children with special needs that require the supervision and intensive attention of people that are blessed with specialised talents and endless compassion and energy.
At the centre, 24 intellectually and physically challenged children are cared for by nine permanent and four volunteer personnel and according to the Head of Pathways-Polokwane, Renate Wieffering, the centre’s philosophy and ethos is non-discrimination at any level. “All children are accommodated and believed in regardless of their financial, socio-economic, physical, mental or sensory-motor status,” Wieffering says.
Wieffering says that the centre opened at Mount Horeb Presbyterian Church in 1998 with only four children and relocated to the current premises at Mitchell House in 2006 and relies on the support of the community to be sustainable. “Since 1998, countless children have benefited from the centre and it has not only grown in size but has also developed in the efficiency and effectiveness of the pupils’ programmes,” Wieffering proudly says.
Wieffering explains that the bond between the mainstream learners at Mitchell House and the pupils at the centre is very strong. “Pathways has always believed in inclusion and has cherished the dream of one day including its children into the mainstream school. By including our children in the mainstream activities, we promote tolerance and acceptance between children with differences and it is heart-warming to see how the mainstream learners take responsibility for the challenged pupils,” Wieffering says.
Wieffering looks forward to the opening of an opportunity shop at the centre in the near future. “We will sell used items sourced from donors and the children from the centre will be allowed to engage with clients and learn more about buying and selling,” she explained and added that Pathways-Polokwane is also planning to open a transitional centre that will accommodate pupils between 18 and 21 years old. “Our aim is to coach them into self-readiness, she concludes.
The public is invited to join in a picnic and open air film show on the school’s sports field on 17 February. Further information is available from Mitchell House on 015 296 0865.
Story and photo: BARRY VILJOEN