Together we are strong

22 December 2017
Ashley-Ann Kortjie Ashley-Ann Kortjie

When Graham Fiegen, the South African neurosurgeon in Cape Town, read Zubeida’s story about Ashley-Ann (see below) he wrote:  ASBAH( the South Africa spina bifida association) is one of the most inspiring organisations I’ve been privileged to be part of. 

Together we are strong by Zubeida Toefy

The last time I saw Ashley-Ann Kortjie was when she was still attending Astra school. I met Ashley-Ann again in July 2017, 26 years old, an elegant, confident young lady who spoke very well.  She was in a wheelchair, not because she needed it, Ashley-Ann can walk, but added to her Spina Bifida condition, she was also born with a condition known as Dwarfism and is very short. She says she never walks around in public because people just stare and snigger...shame!   The wheelchair adds stature to her appearance, particularly when in company. I promised her that day that one day I’m going to visit her in Riversdale which is 300 klms out of Cape Town on the Garden Route.

So on my way to Knysna, on 16 December 2017, for a short holiday break up the Garden Route, I popped in with Ashley-Ann in Riversdale. We chatted about her becoming one of our ASBAH Spina Bifida Help Ambassadors. It got me thinking about ways I can her exposed to the right people to see and hear her.

When on my way back, I called her mum to say, I wanted to pop in again, she said Ashley-Ann was away with friends and is not coming back that day.

I popped in anyway on 19 December, and made some enquiries  about a local newspaper who I can contact to do story on Ashley-Ann. I bought the South Cape Forum to get contact details. As we were leaving we passed the library, saw it was open and I decided to go in. Hardie stayed in the car. I was met by the 2 smiling and welcoming faces of library assistants, Ronel Fielies and Esme Hugo. They called the Librarian, Melanie Cloete, and I went outside to the car to fetch some ASBAH  pamphlets, to find Hardie coming to call me to see Ashley-Ann being pushed in her wheelchair past the library. Her friends had decided to bring her to visit the town.


I took Ashley-Ann and her friends into the library ( the first time Ashley-Ann goes into the library in years ). Melanie was very interested to hear my story about Ashley-Ann and to hear what Spina Bifida is. I asked Melanie about the possibility of Ashley-Ann helping at the library, even on a voluntary basis for starters. She immediately agreed, but also asked someone to go and call Roland. The library is attached to the City Hall, which is head office of the Hessequa (Garden Route) Municipality. Roland was the project manager for CWP ( Community Work Project ) A National Government poverty alleviation project. They find work  and pay people a stipend even if you are receiving a disability grant. 

  • Melanie invited Ashley-Ann to come and work on their computer...she will create an email address for her and assist her. 
  • As part of the CWP project, hopefully Ashley-Ann will get to assist in the library and receive a stipend. 
  • She will also then be my ASBAH Spina Bifida Help Ambassador in Riversdale and nearby surrounding areas. 

Melanie immediately spoke of next year’s World Spina Bifida Day to be celebrated by the library, inviting celebrities, the clinic/hospital nursing staff, parents of other disabilities in the surrounding areas.  

It is nice to work together towards a same goal. Together we are strong

Never again will I think of Riversdale as that layback Dorpie on the garden Route.

How can you help?

Support Child-Help and give children with a birth defect in developing countries a fair start!