Durban siblings, final-year UKZN Medical student Ms Tasmika Mahabir and first-year Medical intern at King Edward VIII Hospital Dr Akhil Mahabir, have launched the second year of a heart-warming teddy bear drive aimed at uplifting the spirits of sick and underprivileged children on Mandela Day.
The siblings collected 550 new and “pre-loved” teddies last year during the project titled the Teddy Up initiative and donated them to sick children at 10 different sites in and around Durban.
‘We chose Mandela Day as Madiba himself had a special love and concern for children,’ said Tasmika. ‘He was committed to the betterment of the lives of others and was a beacon of hope for many. At Teddy Up we believe his legacy of spreading hope should radiate among the population and never fade. To honour him, we have pledged to distribute teddy bears to as many children as possible with the aim of bringing smiles to young faces.’
Passionate about the wellbeing of others and serving the community by assisting in various outreach programmes, Akhil said he was on his paediatric rotation when he realised there were many children experiencing great discomfort and pain while in hospital. ‘Giving them a teddy not only brings comfort, but also smiles. Not every child’s parent can be present while they are in hospital and a teddy bear makes a welcome fluffy companion.’
Committed to cultural upliftment and passionate about being a role model for South African youth, Tasmika said: ‘The support this year has been overwhelming. It was great to see schools and religious and cultural organisations reach out and support us.
‘One of the best things we heard this year was parents telling us how grateful they are for this drive as it helps them teach their young children to give back to society and let go of some of their precious childhood things. Many parents said it helped teach children discipline, to organise their teddies, and instil good values about being charitable from a tender age.’
The siblings addressed learners at one of the initiative’s biggest contributors this year – Mount Edgecombe Private School.
Meanwhile, Kumari Shiksha’s Dance Institute – where Tasmika is a Bharatanatyam Dance graduate – as well as the Umhlanga Hindu Society and Spice Girls, have come on board for the second year. ‘Megazone Radio has been a great partner in not only being a drop off point but also in advertising and allowing us to share information on the initiative through radio interviews,’ she said. ‘We have two new partners this year: Caltex Garage Gateway and Triple S Fitness Umhlanga. We are proud to welcome them onboard as drop off locations and are grateful for their support.’
‘In 2023, we aim to distribute teddies to sick children in hospitals, clinics, and paediatric hospices in the Durban area,’ said Akhil. ‘The 2023 Teddy bear drive will run until 23 June with distribution starting on Mandela Day – 18 July.’
Members of the public are invited to support Teddy Up by donating new or pre-loved teddies at the drop off points: Caltex Gateway on Aurora Drive, Umhlanga; Umhlanga Hindu Temple; and Kumari Shiksha’s Dance Institute, on Saturdays at their premises at 64 Grandmore Primary School, Phoenix.
This initiative can be followed on Instagram under the handle TeddyUp.kzn and on Facebook by searching Teddy Up.
Words: Lunga Memela