Whispers Speech and Hearing Centre officially opened its doors under new management and a new name on 1 April 2014. This was mostly just an administrative change, as the important part of what we do had remained exactly the same… to provide early intervention, care, education and most of all language to hearing impaired children.
Whispers Speech and Hearing Centre now functions as a Not for Profit Section 21 Company under a Board of Directors whose diversity reflects the many communities that we work in.
The Centre is registered as a Non-Profit Organization (NPO 126-074), a SARS Public Benefit Organization (PBO 930 046 427) and is BEE level 1 compliant.
Aspects of our programme
Whispers Early Childhood Development Centre
A full time Early Childhood Development (ECD) Centre. For children with hearing and communication difficulties.
- Funding – more than 70% of the children are on subsidies and hence the largest part of our staff salaries have to be sourced elsewhere.
- Real cost is almost R6500 per child per month, full paying children are only paying between R3400 and R3600 a month, depending on the hours spent in the programme. Hence bursaries for children are necessary.
- Space – if our current trend toward growth continues we will run out of space by the end of the year.
- We need to increase security measures for the registration of the school – gating off stairs, closing kitchen, safety gates on outside doors, etc.
Our vision for the future
For many of our children with some extra time they will have access to better long term educational placement – hence we dream of going to at least Grade 4. (We have an informal agreement in place with a small private school some distance away – ultimately we would like to be closer in location as this will facilitated a better working relationship and ensure continuity of the programme).
Full time therapy services of at least one speech therapist, occupational therapist and later a physical therapist – on sponsored salaries as most of the children in the programme have access to limited health insurance.
Parent Guidance Program
A parent-directed information sessions, in the language of the parents, to educate parents as to what home interventions are best for the stimulation of their children with hearing impairment. This is also provided to educators and caregivers of children who have graduated and entered mainstream education.
- Staffing – currently this department supports 60 children (59 families) with only one therapist. We are trying to source funding to employ and train another therapist.
- Internet – the current state of the internet available at the Centre is not enough to run the SkIP (Skype Intervention Programme) programme – the therapist runs this part of the programme from her home at her own expense in order to help the families. Most of these sessions are done at 6h30 in the morning because of the internet signal and also in order for the therapist to serve the other children in the programme during the rest of the day.
Our vision for the future
Find and train a remedially qualified teacher who can take over the mainstream support functions and open a separate department for optimal support of our children in inclusive education.
Start support groups for our children in each of the different phases of our programme – group for parents of a newly diagnosed child, our primary school children – and expanding to high school children – a very real need.
Expand our SkIP programme to reach more children in Africa who are not able to access therapy services.
- Tshwane Health is happy to have us in the clinics but other than providing the venue, the Centre has to cover it’s own costs in carrying out the screening – salaries and a large number of disposable items are used in the process in order to comply with full health regulations. Many of the patients seen are also HIV+ (because they are at higher risk for hearing related problems) and hence infection control is very important.
- Equipment – the servicing and calibration of these sensitive machines is vital to the running of the programme – additional equipment will need to be acquired to cope with the growth in this department.
- Staffing – this project is also growing beyond the bounds of one audiologist and a Centre trained community worker.
- To accommodate all the clinics that the Tshwane municipality wants us to accommodate we need more staff and more audiological equipment.
- Financial aid to cover the travelling costs for the families and children identified in the project, in order to reach the centre and other services which may be deemed necessary.
- The maintenance of Audiology equipment to service the Centre, as well as the outreach sites is extremely costly. No sites that we service have the necessary equipment and all costs are carried by the Centre.
- Contracting of ENT specialists to help service the persons we identify in the rural areas is urgently needed. Our current budget cannot carry these professional fees even when we can source the services at a discounted rate.
Our vision for the future
We are in the process of negotiating with the University of Pretoria to have their students work in the project for actual experience in running a hearing screening project – we see this as a valuable addition to their training for truly preparing them for the realities of working in a third world country.
We are also looking to register the programme as a service provider with the health department for the compulsory community service year, audiology students must complete before qualifying. This could reduce our costs, increase our staffing, increase research possibilities and help us grow the project to reach more babies, toddlers and children.
Youth Skills Development and Education Program
Preparing the next generation of therapists and caregivers is essential to us. We work closely with schools and Universities to teach and assist children and youth to work with our disabled children whether on a voluntary, academic, or community service manner.
Our biggest challenges
The small amount that is generated by fees being paid to the Centre for all services, only covers around 20% of the finances needed in the delivery of all the services provided.
Our staff salaries are a big part of our running budget due to the fact that all our staff are trained and experienced in the fields that they are involved in, and by virtue of the children we work with, a high adult child ratio is required in order to achieve success (2:6 in the junior groups and a maximum of 2:8 in our older groups).
We believe we are effective because we work in small groups to allow as much one-to-one interaction time to facilitate language learning. All classes have full-time trained teaching assistants to assist with this.
Sourcing regular dependable financial assistance to make up the largest part of our running budget remains the biggest challenge we face in keep our doors open and fulfilling our mission.