I've been volunteering for Autism South Africa since I visited their offices a few months ago. Unfortunately, the financial difficulties the organization was experiencing then have become even more pronounced. There is no government support. Donations are dwindling. Existing sources of revenue are drying up.
There is the great dilemma- should you continue to push for awareness in a country where autism is under-diagnosed and misunderstood, knowing that it is already impossible to provide adequate assistance?
The one thing they desperately need- more money- I'm unable to bring. I couldn't help but feel helpless.
And yet that morning...
- In walked a student from the local university looking for further information about autism spectrum disorders.
- An educator is travelling around the country providing workshops for parents, therapists and teachers.
- A therapist stopped by and asked to be added to the mailing list for more information about autism workshops.
- The mother of a newly diagnosed child was able to walk in and collect information about autism in her own language, and given direction about the next steps.
- Another concerned parent could call in and schedule an appointment for a full assessment free of charge.
The staff continue to work on ways to help everyone affected by autism in South Africa has access to the support and services they need, regardless of the current situation.
Following a phone call in which a father asked, "Is there any hope?" following the recent diagnosis of his child, the member of staff who took the call turned to me and said he wasn't sure how to respond to that question. He asked me how I would have replied.
There is always hope.
When there is nothing left to give, hope is the one thing you can give. We hopeful parents know that. A cause is never hopeless as long as there are people trying to find it. I don't feel helpless any more. I described my first visit to the office as a flood, but now I know better. It is a lighthouse. In these dark times, Autism South Africa is still shining a light. Now all that remains is to make that beacon brighter.