You never know when a profound moment is going to happen in your life.
This would be one of those days.
The unseasonably late snow meant there was a sharp bite in the air but provided a beautiful backdrop of lightly dusted mountains.
Worcester summoned six of us from Distell so we piled into the minivan for the ninety minute journey. Feeling honoured but not entirely sure why I’d been asked to join the others; I asked the question and they jokingly admitted it was to be the spokesperson. We all laughed – but they weren’t kidding. Thankfully this was the case because what an eye opening and educational experience this was.
We were on our way to meet with the CEO and founder of FASFacts, Francois Grobbelaar, to hand over money we’d raised earlier in the month at a golf day.
What an incredible man and what a company.
It’s why I’m compelled to share their story.
Who is FASFacts?
FASFacts (Foetal Alcohol Syndrome Facts) is a Non-Profit Organisation (NPO) committed to eradicating FAS by educating mothers not to drink while pregnant. They were born out of a growing epidemic in South Africa that started during apartheid with the ‘dop system’ – paying labourers on farms with wine. With little to no education many women would then drink while pregnant.
Don’t be fooled into thinking this is only a problem affecting disadvantaged areas – this is a problem across all races and sectors.
There are currently between 2-3 million people in SA with all the symptoms of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and another 5-6 million people with some of the symptoms. Sadly, this means there are 7-9 million people in SA are permanently brain damaged by prenatal alcohol exposure.
FASFacts vision is for all children to be born without FAS and they’re working to achieve this by implementing programmes and campaigns in affected communities to decrease the prevalence of FAS.
Francois shared his journey through life and how he came to know that this is what he needs to do. It’s amazing how much power is behind an organisation when you hear the personal story of why someone does what they do. When you look into their eyes and feel their passion. Sitting next to him I was humbled to be in the presence of such an incredible selfless person.
What impressed me about their organisation is the fact that their program is about empowering communities with education and ownership. It all starts by educating children in schools and getting them to pledge their commitment to making positive choices in their lives. Secondly, through their ‘Train the trainer’ program, mentors are educated on the devastating effects of alcohol on unborn children. Then, armed with knowledge and tools, these mentors go back into their communities and walk, door to door, talking to each and every woman who’s pregnant.
At times it must feel like a far more insurmountable climb than the mountains that surround Worcester, but each interaction is another step closer to zero babies being affected.
Just think for a moment from the perspective of the child whose life is spared from this dark path.
Is it worth chancing? In life we all have to go through the same challenges – why put your child on the back foot from day one?
The simple fact is there is no known ‘safe’ amount of alcohol you can consume during pregnancy. Fact
Foetal Alcohol Syndrome is 100% preventable. It’s also 100% incurable. Fact
Effects of alcohol on the unborn child
Permanent Brain damage. There’s no need to sugar coat here and this alone should be reason enough for no woman to drink.
Here are other problems associated with FAS:
Poor growth. New-borns may have low birth weights and small head sizes. They may not grow or gain weight as well as other children and may be short as adults.
Birth defects. Developing babies may have heart, bone, and kidney problems. Vision problems and hearing loss are common.
Seizures and other neurologic problems, such as poor balance and coordination.
Delayed development. Kids may not reach milestones at the expected time.
Behavioural problems. Babies may be fussy or jittery, and have trouble sleeping. Poor concentration, stubbornness, impulsiveness and anxiety are also a potential problem.
Older children and teens may have:
* A lack of coordination and poor fine motor skills
* Poor social skills (difficulty getting along with friends and relating to others, etc.)
* Learning difficulties, including poor memory, difficulty in school (especially math), and poor problem-solving skills
What can we do?
Educate and support.
It starts with each individual. You’ve already started here and so share what you know with as many people as you can.
Supporting FASFacts will be greatly appreciated. It becomes difficult to truly quantify what the impact of FAS has on society as a whole because of all the physical, emotional and physiological disorders listed above existing sans drinking during pregnancy, but with Distell’s commitment to working closely with FASFacts, a study was conducted to see what impact these programs have had.
Behold South Africa Consultancy (Pty) Ltd were commissioned to conduct social impact analysis to determine the social value of FASFacts work. Here is the report:
Of the 120 women who were mentored through the program during the period of the review 76 (68%) reported to have stopped drinking during pregnancy all together and another 16% reduced their alcohol intake.
21 of the women were teenagers. 11 of them (52.4%) also reported to discontinue their use of alcohol during pregnancy completely.
13 of them (61.9%) were attending school and six of them went back to school
An additional spin-off is the fact it increased responsible parenting in the affected communities. There was an increase in women who felt empowered to take control of their lives and found employment after participating in the Pregnant Women Mentor Program (PWMP)
The lifestyles of the mentors who form part of the PWMP were positively affected too, as 55% of them reported to have stopped drinking themselves and felt uplifted by making a positive contribution to their communities.
Other effects of increased awareness around FASD included enhanced mental and physical health, an increase in positive behaviour and more stable families.
These reductions in drinking behaviour reflect in sharp increases in employment after PWMP (60%) as well as cost savings in the household and reduced future health related costs.
*Source: Distell Transformation Handbook – Behold South Africa Consultancy (Pty) Ltd social impact analysis
Proof is in the pudding and these are all outcomes worthy of our support.
Help a worthy cause
FASFacts goal is to have an office and staff in each province by 2020 (they are currently only working in the Western & Northern Cape). To achieve this they need all the help they can get.
No amount is too small so pledge your support and make a difference to the well-being of our society.
Cheque Account #: 40-5648-4460
Branch: Worcester (632-005)
Visit them on www.fasfacts.org.za to see more of what amazing work they do and become a donor.
How much will it cost you to share this story? You might only be able to help one child in this world; but to that child?
You’ll become the world.
…Even if they never get to meet you.