Being in a wheelchair has never held Chaeli Mycroft back. In fact it’s propelled her forward, turning her into an ability activist heading an initiative to support disabled children and their families and lobbying society to become more inclusive. At the age of nine she co-founded The Chaeli Campaign with her sister and friends, and raised R20 000 for a motorised wheelchair to get herself new independence. The campaign has since helped thousands of other families and rewritten some rules. Another success is wheelchair athletes can now enter the Comrades Marathon.
“Activism is not just about single moments of bravery and resolution, although these are important too. It’s about showing up consistently.”
Her current campaign is 3000inthirty.com, the aim of which is to get 3 000 people signing up to donate money every month.
She’s also learned never to underestimate how life-changing a small act, like giving someone a wheelchair for independence or an iPad for communication and self-expression, can be.
Mycroft has been honoured with the International Children’s Peace Prize and the World of Children Youth Award, as well as being hailed as an Obama African Leader. She’s addressed the United Nations in Geneva twice and was the first recipient of the Nobel Peace Laureates’ Medal for Social Activism. In 2015 she became the first female quadriplegic to summit Mt Kilimanjaro in Tanzania.
Her work seems particularly relevant in 2020, with the Covid-19 lockdown forcing everyone to re-evaluate their lives. “It took a pandemic of this scale for non-disabled individuals to realise the difficulties of a life with restrictions,” she says. In addition to her work, Mycroft is doing her PhD in public law.