When it comes to making dreams come true for children fighting life-threatening illnesses, Reach For A Dream is on a mission to deliver. Behind every success story lies a dedicated team of professionals whose tireless efforts help to put smiles on children’s faces. This month, we caught up with Michelle van Huyssteen, the Branch Manager for the Gqeberha and Garden Route region, as well as the National Finance Administrator for Reach For A Dream. Michelle shares her insights on the evolution of Reach For A Dream and how working with children has impacted her life in a profound way.
How have you seen Reach For A Dream evolve over the years, and what is your hope for the organisation moving forward?
In my 15 years with the organisation, I have witnessed the evolution of Reach For A Dream. We are constantly adapting to the changing times, and technology revolution as seen with our Virtual Reality project, where we can transport children in hospitals to new worlds, giving them the chance to break free from the confines of their current reality. While fulfilling dreams has been our constant mandate for 35 years, no dream is ever the same. My wish for the Foundation is that we always remember why we were founded: to inspire children to dream and believe in the impossible, as this is a critical catalyst to manifest hope.
Could you share a particular moment of dream fulfillment that has stuck with you since you joined the organisation?
I have had so many beautiful, emotional, and inspiring moments with dreamers. A dream moment that comes to mind is that of a teen girl from Thembalethu, George, who has had a challenging life apart from managing her medical condition. Her biggest dream was to become a helicopter pilot and fly in a helicopter. On the day of her dream reveal, we arranged a magical flight over Mossel Bay, where she was the “co-pilot”. When the pilot told her that she was “flying” the helicopter, her face lit up and her ultimate dream was fulfilled.
In your opinion, how important is it for children to have hope during their illness, and what positive effects have you seen it play in a child’s recovery?
I have witnessed the positive effect that hope, in all its facets, has had both physically and emotionally on children. Recently, a terribly ill little boy with a heart condition was so encouraged by his special toy car dream coming true. His doctor promised him that he could go to the FEM Dora Nginza Dream Room for his dream reveal if he could be weaned off the oxygen. This added to his determination! On the morning of his dream, our little man could function for a while without the help of oxygen. Both he and his mom who had been keeping vigil at his bedside, were so overcome with joy at seeing the toy cars that they were consoling each other in an unbelievably beautiful and emotional moment.
How do you manifest hope in your daily life?
My faith and the awareness of – and gratitude for – the blessings I receive each day, even when I am struggling with the demands of life, is how hope manifests in my daily life.