The rights of children with disabilities
The Chaeli Campaign is the first professional organization set up by children in South Africa that does something for disabled children.
Cape Town, South Africa
Michaela 'Chaeli' Mycroft was born in 1994 in Cape Town, South Africa, with cerebral palsy. As a consequence of this, Chaeli can only use her arms and legs to a limited extent. Nevertheless, she keeps looking at all the things she can do and continues to push her boundaries.
Chaeli finds it very important that children with disabilities are not excluded or have fewer opportunities than children without disabilities. She prefers to focus on the possibilities rather than the limitations. All children have the right to a full life, a life in which they get the opportunity to maximize their chances and take a suitable place in society.
“We need to remember that every child has light inside them, we need to remember it, especially with children with disabilities.”
This fundraiser will be the start of The Chaeli Campaign, with the motto: ‘Hope in Motion’. The Chaeli Campaign has grown into a professional organization with multiple programs to support, empower and mobilize disabled children and their families.
Chaeli's organization tries to prevent children with disabilities from being stuck at home. ‘Inclusion changes everything’. Chaeli believes it's important that everyone sees that children with disabilities are also normal children and that people look at what these children can do, instead of what they cannot do.
At the age of nine, Chaeli, her sister and three friends started a collection campaign with the aim of purchasing a motorized wheelchair. This wheelchair would provide Chaeli with much more freedom and independence. The goal is already achieved within seven weeks, which motivates the girls to continue their actions and provide more children with disabilities with the necessary tools.
“I can’t change society’s understanding of disability on my own. We need everybody to get involved in creating an inclusive society.”
Supported by theKidsRights Care and Study Fund, Chaeli obtained her Bachelor's degree in Social Science. She is now in the final phase of her Master’s degree in Human Rights Law at the University of Cape Town (UCT). She is planning on continuing her studies to get a PhD. She wants to specialize in the field of child participation, which is her passion.
KidsRights supports Chaeli as a changemaker in her struggle for equal rights for children with disabilities and child participation. The Chaeli Campaign has grown into an international organization with dozens of employees who ensure that children with physical disabilities have the necessary tools. In addition, the organization is committed to the rights of children with disabilities in general, so that inclusion can be prevented.
KidsRights has supported Chaeli in her fight for the rights of disabled children with the Children’s Peace Prize Fund 2011. The lives of many children with disabilities in South Africa have improved. For example, children are supported with regard to education, training and therapies. Besides Chaeli's own initiative, The Chaeli Campaign, KidsRights also financially supported FW de Klerk Foundation.
This foundation also operates in South Africa and focuses on improving the lives of children with disabilities. The FW de Klerk Foundation was founded by Nobel Peace Prize Laureate F.W. de Klerk. Special care centers have been established where mentally disabled children receive the appropriate care and education. In addition, this organization is committed to increase school-related successes for children in disadvantaged neighborhoods.
The ambassador program of The Chaeli Campaign that KidsRights already supports is Pay-It-Forward. This program trains children between the ages of 9 and 14, with and without physical disabilities, on their communication skills, leadership skills and network capacities. In this way they want to contribute to the development of skills of children that help to make positive changes in their own community.
“If you want change, you should work on it.”
Chaeli is a founding member of The KidsRights Youngsters; a unique youth-led advocacy and awareness-raising platform for International Children’s Peace Prize winners, that aims to realize children’s rights as outlined in the Convention on the Rights of the Child. As leading young changemakers, they act locally, speak out to world leaders, influence policy, and engage children and young people worldwide. What these inspiring youngsters have achieved on their own is amazing. But that is just the beginning. With our support, their ambition to change the world can be limitless.
In February 2017, KidsRights, Nobel Peace Prize winners, leaders and young people from all over the world gathered in Bogota, Colombia, to create inspiring and practical solutions for the current international challenges. During this unique gathering, the World Summit of Nobel Peace Prize winners discussed everything that should be done to achieve sustainable peace. Chaeli attended this day together with co-KidsRights Youngster Kehkashan Basu. Together with two other Colombian young changemakers, they received the Turner Social Change Prize. This prize serves to support their activism; a well-deserved worldwide recognition for their constant efforts to change the world!
In 2016, Chaeli and her friend Anita were the first wheelchair athletes, in the nearly 100-year history of the Comrades Marathon, that reached the finish. The Comrades Marathon is a race of 89 kilometers from the South African Pietermaritzburg to Durban. Initially, Chaeli and Anita could not participate in the marathon because of their wheelchairs. They started a petition to stand up for their right to participate. This petition was successful and Chaeli has participated in this marathon three times already.
"I felt a lot of pressure to perform well because we were the first participants in a wheelchair ever. Winning a bronze medal proves that we indeed have the right to be part of this race and this opens the door for all other wheelchair athletes to partici
Chaeli continues to prove to the world that nothing stands in your way if you work for it. In August 2015, Chaeli became the first woman with tetraplegia (paralysis of four limbs and torso) to climb the Kilimanjaro. Then she became one of the first two quadriplegics to complete the Comerades marathon in South Africa. This shows once again that you should never look at what people cannot do, but at what they can do. Also, Chaeli and a team have climbed the Lion's Head in Cape Town. Here too she set a record, as the first person with tetraplegia to reach the top. Undoubtedly, even more admirable performances will follow, as Chaeli is not ready yet and will do anything to keep surprising us.
“People with disabilities have endless potential.”