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CB20: Making a difference

30 August 2008
Carte Blanche has been making a difference for 20 years. To celebrate two decades of broadcasting, M-Net’s flagship current affairs show will be launching an initiative to give back to communities through a series of programs that will benefit South African hospitals and children.

Derek Watts (Carte Blanche presenter): “Carte Blanche turns 20 years old this month and there's a lot to celebrate. But it's not all about partying. As we enter adulthood, the focus is on giving back. It's about Carte Blanche making a difference.”

And tonight we're launching the start of a seven week fundraising drive.

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George Mazarakis (Carte Blanche: Executive Producer): “We've coined the phrase, 'The Making a Difference Campaign' - because that's what Carte Blanche does. Carte Blanche affects people's lives in a very positive way. We also tell stories about how things aren't always working very well. But I think it's time, after 20 years, to give back, and actually to press 'pause' on the critical button and say, “Now's the time to make a difference," and ask, “How can we help?'“

We all know the dire conditions in a lot of our hospitals and desperate neediness in some welfare organisations. This time around we're not there to expose the problems, but to overcome them. With your help we want to help and raise millions of rands - children will be our focus.

George: “We chose children. And children are in great need in this country - on a variety of levels.”

Derek: 'Making a difference is part of the Carte Blanche tradition, and it's usually you, the viewer, who has been inspired by our stories of people who have overcome enormous obstacles with determination and a whole lot of dignity. You may remember Eugene'

[Carte Blanche archive] Eugene Murphy: “I thought what was wrong “¦when I tried to sleep, I couldn't”

After being knocked down by a car at five years old, Eugene Murphy was left not only semi-paralysed but with a strange and rare disorder. He had no subconscious control of his breathing. This meant while he was awake he was fine but when asleep he stopped breathing.

[Carte Blanche archive] Michelle: “I would be so nervous if I was being put into something like that. And you're quite cool about it?”

[Carte Blanche 1995] Eugene: “Yes.”

For thirteen years the Murphy family had been putting Eugene to sleep with this respirator [on screen], so old it was literally held together with sticky tape. And instead of a medical poncho, they found ordinary garbage bags worked almost as well.

[Carte Blanche 1995] Michelle: “Now originally this machine was inside the bedroom with Eugene and his parents. The only problem was that nobody could get any sleep, so Mr Murphy decided to drill a hole through the wall so they could place the machine in the lounge.”

Derek: “Within an hour of this story broadcasting there were calls and offers of support, and Eugene's ancient respirator was replaced with a brand spanking new machine whose silence was deafening.”

Along with a computer and software, another four respirators were also donated. And money enough to look after not only Eugene's future medical expenses but pass on to other children who would now be able to leave the hospital. And best of all for this cricket-mad teenager, Jonty Rhodes came to the party donating money and...

[Carte Blanche 1995] Eugene: [Shows autographed card] “Genuine Jonty signature!”

George: “Carte Blanche's stories are about human beings. They tell human narratives, natural narratives, and the audience has always responded to that. It's extraordinary - whenever we've shown a story of someone in need, we've never ever asked for money, but people have come forward and found solutions. South Africans are incredibly generous.”

Derek: “We met 17-year-old Chris Corlett in 2000 - a courageous young leukaemia sufferer. He desperately needed a bone marrow transplant to save his life; two transplants hadn't worked, and he was going for a third.”

[Carte Blanche August 2000] Chris Corlett: “Some people probably think I'm out of my mind going for three transplants - but it's either that or a possible three weeks of living.”

Thousands responded to the first Carte Blanche programme - with letters, charity drives, money and offers to be tested as bone marrow donors. His mother Tina, who spearheaded the drive to find a matching donor for Chris, was overwhelmed by the response.

[Carte Blanche August 2000] Tina (Chris's mom): “It was absolutely amazing. From that a TV commercial developed...”

[Television commercial] Tina: “The TV commercial brought in an overwhelming amount of money. Our idea was to try [and] get the machine that they needed to test more donors.”

The price tag of R500 000 was raised and the machine bought. But time was against Chris Corlett, who died in September 2000. His mother went on and started the Sunflower Fund, in memory of Chris. The fund has in seven years grown South Africa's bone marrow database from 800 to over 63 000 people.

Ten-year-old, Chaeli Mycroft' s desire for a state of the art motorised wheelchair was also the start of something big.

[Carte Blanche December 2004] Chaeli's sister: “Wait for me Chaeli!”

She, her sister and three best friends got together and quite incredibly raised the needed R20 000 in just seven weeks.

[Carte Blanche December 2004] Chaeli: “They don't treat me differently because I'm in a wheelchair. They fight with me and everything.”

[Carte Blanche December 2004] Chaeli's friend [laughing]: “We treat her like the brat she is.”

And with the money left over they didn't stop there. The Chaeli Campaign was formed with the mission to buy wheelchairs and provide help - like physio - for children with no resources. It was the dedicated team of Chaeli and her mother Zelda who were the driving force. And because of Chaeli:

[Carte Blanche December 2004] Les Aupiais (Carte Blanche presenter): “Paul, who was confined to a dark hut, might be able to walk; Sebeseele, a 14-year-old boy in Cross Roads is mobile; Vanessa, who crawled on her knees, sits high. Unete Fenghi and 14 other children from Oceanview Clinic are next on the list of the Chaeli Campaign - the snowball gets bigger and bigger.”

Today the Chaeli Campaign, a formal non-profit organisation, operates throughout South Africa helping hundreds of disadvantaged children and their families.

Derek: 'Who would have thought that a cerebral-palsied child with a dream of her own independence could inspire her friends, her school, her community and pretty much the country to that extent?'

[Carte Blanche October 2005] When Ashley Kaimowitz was killed by a drunken driver, she left behind a legacy, truly remarkable for her 19 years.

[Excerpt from Ashley's documentary] Infants and children are pulled into dark alleyways, raped and some even killed.

Three years previously, at 16 years old, with no experience and only passion, Ashley had made a documentary on a struggling Family Counselling Centre in Khayelitsha that was trying to counter the high incidence of rape and abuse amongst their children.

[Excerpt from Ashley's documentary] Deep in the heart of the Kayelitsha community, is a woman whose bravery and strength has been challenging the struggles against child rape in the townships.

It was a meeting with Nocawe Makanyi and the children at her centre that had profoundly affected Ashley.

Megan (Ashley's mother): 'She told me about this little girl that was sitting in the corner and her daddy had raped her. And Ashley looked at me and said, 'You know, Dad is your hero, Dad is your protector - how do they do this?' And she said, 'I'm going to create awareness - I'm going to make a movie.''

[Excerpt from Ashley's documentary] We must fight child rape. We must fight for our children. We must fight for the love of our children.

[Carte Blanche October 2005] Jeffrey (Ashley's father): “I think we learned for the first time through her eyes, and what she was doing, of a reality we all know about but maybe choose not to take notice of.”

At the first screening Ashley raised R40 000, but she wanted more. It was Noncawe's dream to build a centre, open 24 hours a day, seven days a week - a haven for abused and neglected children. To do this the centre needed to raise over R2-million.

[Carte Blanche October 2005] Noncawe: “Wherever she is she would phone, “˜How is the centre? How are you coping? What are you doing?' She was everything for the centre - and then Ashley was no longer there.”

When Ashley died she had raised nearly R300 000. Her death inspired others to open their hearts and give even more.

[Carte Blanche October 2005] Noncawe: “It was very bad to lose someone like Ashley. I'm sorry.”

Derek: “In her short lifetime Ashley achieved an incredible amount. And after that story went to air, the dream of creating a safe haven for sexually abused children in Kayelitsha has become a reality.”

In fact, Ashley's Story helped raise over R6-million to build this family counselling centre with a clinic, community hall, therapy rooms - virtually identical to what then seemed an impossible dream.

For over 20 years children and their rights have been a big part of our stories. We've witnessed cutting edge surgery, like the separation of Daniella and Danika, and the magical moment when the sisters first saw each other; shared with you the saga of a heart transplant; looked at the awful phenomena of children who have to be parents because of Aids; and tracked the miraculous progress of Courtney Faye, the youngest ever victim of crime. And always Carte Blanche viewers responded.

Derek: “The spontaneous generosity from Carte Blanche viewers is a welcome and unexpected by-product of the stories we tell. But fundraising foundations for hospitals, even if they have government funding, is becoming an essential reality around the world.”

In Australia, the Sydney Children's Hospital Foundation is one of the most effective. In the last 20 years it has raised over 100-million Australian dollars for the Sydney Children's Hospital, Randwick.

Chief Executive of the foundation, Adam Check, runs the fundraising campaigns.

Adam Check (CE: Sydney Children's Hospital Foundation): 'Donations come to us in a variety of ways. It's generally through individuals, but also community groups, special events and corporate Australia: from a little old lady on the street who contributes through payroll giving, to the biggest telecommunications company in this country.'

From a cafeteria to state of the art medical equipment the foundation has enabled the hospital to operate on the top level without the restrictions it would have with only government funding,

Adam: “The Sydney Children's Hospital building, which currently houses some 160 beds, was established via the foundation - who at the time raised 10-million [Australian] dollars to actually create and establish that building as it stands today.”

Dr Jonny Taitz (Assistant Director, Clinical Operations: Sydney Children's Hospital): 'The New South Wales Department of Health provides us with the 'bread and the butter' to be able to look after patients well, but the Sydney Children's Foundation plays an immense role in helping to provide the 'jam' - all the extras that go into making this hospital fantastic.'

Specialist physician and Assistant Director of Clinical Operations at the hospital, Dr Jonny Taitz, has seen both sides of the story. As a South African, he initially trained in Cape Town.

Dr Jonny: “I was simply astounded when I arrived at the city children's hospital to see the level of equipment, expertise and resources available. So I think foundations across South Africa could learn much from the way we operate in Sydney; the way that the foundation galvanises community support and helps that to drive urgently needed equipment and resources for the hospital.”

George: 'So why not borrow a successful model from another country and implement it here? We have generous viewers. As we've established before, we have corporates that are very generous and socially aware - all we're doing is simply acting as facilitators to help those hospitals deliver.'

In the next seven weeks Carte Blanche will profile the paediatric surgical units of five state hospitals where the right medical equipment can save a life. We'll focus on two child welfare organisations who are trying to deal with the onslaught of abandoned and orphaned children. We will see the conditions they work under, what they most need, we will ask our viewers and companies to help.

Derek: “A lot of these state hospitals must have rules and regulations, and red tape - so how do you go about working with them to establish their needs?”

George: “Hospitals, by definition, are very bureaucratic organisations - but they're all populated by extraordinary people. And we've met some of the most remarkable human beings - who are angels of mercy, really. These are people who are dedicated to saving lives and put themselves in second place in order to achieve that. There's been some degree of suspicion in the bureaucratic hierarchy of some of the hospitals - with a degree of justification, given who we are... and that we usually enter those spaces looking for something that's wrong. And here we are saying, “˜We know there are things that are wrong, but we can help make them right.' And some of them have been so suspicious of us that they have said, “˜Thank you very much - no thank you. We don't need your assistance.' Which I think is a grave pity, actually, because they're really the hospitals that need it most.”

The five hospitals which have come on board are:
Johannesburg Hospital
Chris Hani Baragwanath
Bloemfontein Academic
Pretoria Academic and
King Edward Hospital in KwaZulu-Natal.

The two charities are:
Johannesburg Child Welfare and
The Johannesburg Parent and Child Counselling Centre.

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Adam: “95% of the donations we receive are earmarked for a purpose within the hospital. That means a donor coming in, who wants to make a donation, can nominate for that money to go to the purchase of a piece of equipment. It may be about improving the amenities within one of the wards where they can be recognised for their contribution. And so, there's a lot of transparency between raising of the funds from the community to actually purchasing and helping to purchase something within the hospital environment.”

And it's on this model that the Carte Blanche campaign is based; using a “wish list”.

Derek: “It's not about handing over cash to the hospitals. It's about identifying the most urgently needed equipment and then persuading the corporates - and possibly even the viewers - to help fund it.”

George: 'What we intend to do is, if major donors from the corporate world - our advertisers in particular - come forward and want to contribute to the hospital and give a major piece of life-saving equipment, we are going to reflect that in our editorial space.'

Derek: “Now it's not a case of just handing over cash...”

George: 'To keep things clean, we've decided what would be best is to highlight the needs, point out where they are, define wish lists from the hospitals, and say to the corporates, 'This is what they need. You buy this equipment. We'll lead you to the appropriate suppliers - which have been led to us in turn by the hospitals - and make sure that you hand over goods, rather than cash'.”

Derek: “Something about the administration of checks and balances...”

George: 'We're going to keep going back. First of all, we'll make sure that everything gets delivered. And we'll reflect the delivery, and we'll reflect the first occasion that the equipment is actually used. And then, over the next year, we are going to go back to all these hospitals - unannounced most often - just to see that everything is okay.'

The Sydney Children's Hospital foundation has affected the lives of hundreds of thousands of children throughout Australia. If we in South Africa in the next seven weeks can do a fraction of that, it would be Carte Blanche's ultimate birthday present.

George: “My dream is to reach 20-million [rand] - a million for each year we've been on air. I think that would be a meaningful contribution. If we can raise that, and make a difference in the lives of children - that's what we aim to do.”


Producer : Diana Lucas
Presenter : Derek Watts