Dear Steps friends and supporters,
Towards the end of last year, I took some time to reflect on our year at Steps, and the theme of change.
Steps has been a change agent from the start. In 2003 when I arrived home from Iowa after meeting Dr Ponseti, having watched his hands moulding my son’s feet into position without the need for surgery, my promise to him was to convince doctors to change how they were treating clubfoot. Since then, Steps was born and we have changed the lives of so many children in South Africa and other countries in our region by training health professionals, supporting clubfoot clinics and parents, raising awareness, and sourcing the essential clubfoot brace. A few years ago we developed a ‘theory of change’ model describing our four pillars of impact that support a child from a disabling birth defect to full mobility. This award-winning model has given us better focus and clarity to work in the challenging environment of public health.
Change is felt both internally and externally. Sometimes we can choose to change, and sometimes we have to adapt to changes that we have no control over. They call that resilience. During 2019 we said sad goodbyes to valued team members who left for new adventures. We welcomed and got to know new team members who brought in refreshing new ideas and energy. We have changed and refined our internal structure, and expanded our connections globally.
One of the exciting developments is that we are planning the first Clubfoot Conference on African soil, which will be held in November 2020 in Cape Town. We have also refined and streamlined how we work. As a 14 year old ‘teenager’, Steps needed the structure and some ‘adulting’ as we develop and grow into a mature organisation! I have found that process frustrating at times, but the results have been really worth it as we enter 2020 feeling calmer and ready.
Change a child’s life.
That’s what we work for, and over our 14 years of existence, that hasn’t changed. Our core purpose remains the same, and keeps us focused on what matters most, the child with clubfoot.
What does change mean to a parent of a child born with clubfoot? It’s absorbing the loss of what you expected to have with the birth of a new baby, and accepting that it will be different. What is supposed to be an intimate and happy family time, becomes one of medical appointments, heavy plaster casts applied to a small baby’s legs, worrying about the future, and often many sleepless nights struggling to adapt to the clubfoot brace. But it’s also watching the changes to your child’s foot as the plaster casts work their magic, becoming part of the supportive clubfoot community, under the care of skilled health professionals, and realising that although the journey is hard and long, it will be all right.
Change is both terrifying and thrilling. I feel the ever present urge to reach more children and the excitement of new possibilities. I wake up with new ideas, but experience has taught me that they don’t all work, or they take longer than I expected. What always remains the same though is that my vision remains unchanged and the core purpose is clear, this is the internal anchor that steadies the ship in turbulent times.
As we enter 2020, we are all going to face change. We only have to check the news to know that nothing is guaranteed, and there is a surprise around every corner. Thankfully, we have people to support us through whatever comes. I am so grateful for the wonderful and constant support from my incredible team, the caring clubfoot clinics we serve, skilled doctors and other health professionals we work with daily, clubfoot organisation colleagues who share our vision and inspire us, and our loyal and generous donors. You are all part of this wonderful journey to change lives and I thank you from the bottom of my heart.