Winner is committed to the rights of disabled children in South Africa
Amsterdam, 21 November 2011 – This afternoon the International Children’s Peace Prize 2011 was awarded to Michaela Mycroft (17) from South Africa. From the five nominated children, who were announced by Desmond Tutu at the end of October, the Expert Committee chose her as the winner. The prize was presented to her by Nobel Peace Laureate Mairead Maguire.
Michaela, also called Chaeli, received this award for her commitment to the rights of children with disabilities in South Africa through her project: the Chaeli Campaign. The International Children’s Peace Prize, an initiative of the Dutch organization KidsRights, is presented annually to an exceptional child, whose courageous or otherwise remarkable acts and thoughts have made a difference in countering problems, which affect children around the world. This year it will be the 7th time a child is rewarded with the International Children’s Peace Prize. In a short period the prize has become the most prestigious international prize in the field of children’s rights.
In the Hall of Knights in The Hague, more than 400 national and international guests gathered to honor this special girl. A number of representatives from the government, industry and non-governmental organizations were speaking at the ceremony, including State Secretary of Health, Welfare and Sport, Marlies Veldhuijzen van Zanten, Chief of Child Protection Section UNICEF, Susan Bissell and Nobel Peace Laureate Mairead Maguire. She has been active for years fighting for peace and human rights and during the ceremony she was noticeably touched by this young heroine. After the inspiring words of these speakers, Chaeli received the Nkosi, a special sculpture that shows a child moving the world. This sculpture symbolizes the impact this award has: in the last years, it has reached millions of people and it provides a global platform for Chaeli to promote her message and to tell her brave story.
Chaeli was born with Cerebral Palsy, through which the function of her arms and legs is limited. But where others see limitations, she sees possibilities; with her positive attitude, she is an inspiration to many.
“Hope is what keeps us going,” Chaeli said in her speech. “It’s what keeps us striving for the lives we deserve. I have hope for myself, but I also have hope for all other children with disabilities. I hope that my actions as an ability activist will leave the world more accepting and more accommodating for all people and not just people with disabilities, because we are all different and we all have the need to be accepted regardless of having a disability or not.”
The Chaeli Campaign
At the age of 9, Chaeli and her friends and sister started a project to raise money for an motorized wheelchair for Chaeli. In just seven weeks they raised more than enough money, so Chaeli decided to help more disabled children. This project has become the Chaeli Campaign, a professional organization that annually helps more than 3000 children with disabilities in South Africa with equipment, physical therapy and which defends the rights and acceptance of disabled children. Chaeli inspires other children to start projects and for that she has developed an ambassadors program.