Ford teams up with local car seat initiatives for SA child road safety

This September, Ford South Africa teamed up with #CarseatFullstop in supporting South African NPO, Wheel Well, as one of the recipients of the annual Ford Global Caring Month.

Every September the Ford team comes together as one family around the world and supports causes in their various communities for Ford Global Caring Month. The Ford Volunteer Corps is a group of over 10,000 Ford employees from over 40 countries. The Ford Motor Company Fund also contributes more than $700,000 in grants for the global non profit projects chosen.

Ford South Africa recognises the critical importance of education our families in child safety on the roads. Earlier this year, Mandy Lee Miller, creator and Director of national car seat awareness initiative #CarseatFullstop was named as one of the Ford Everest brand ambassadors. Every year, Ford approaches their brand ambassadors to put a charity they support forward for Ford Global Caring Month, and Wheel Well is the #CarseatFullstop NPO.

Wheel Well is the only NPO of their kind. Peggie Mars and her team work tirelessly to educate families on the importance of road and car seat safety and to get every child into a safe car seat. Wheel Well collects car seats that children have outgrown. They strip them down to the base, clean them, and replace parts that may be old or worn where possible. If the seats have been in a crash, are at all damaged or have been recalled overseas, they dispose of them responsibly. Soft materials are donated to local animal shelters, and they recycle any metals and the plastic shells.

The Wheel Well team has collected and taken apart around 10,000 car seats. Their knowledge and understanding of car seats is in depth and hands on. They’ve seen how almost all the car seats in South Africa work, how they last after years of use and how they survive crashes. #CarseatFullstop has grown from strength to strength, learning all they have to share. It is an honour and a privilege to learn from them.

The Wheel Well seats are safe and clean and available to those who can genuinely not afford the price of even a basic new car seat for an affordable donation. There are a few basic rules to getting a car seat from Wheel Well – you must have a child, you must have a car, you must come in person so that the seat can be fitted in your car securely and you can learn how to do this too. Most importantly, this car seat is not for you to sell. It is a seat that exists to save a child’s life. A child who otherwise won’t have a car seat. A child who could die without that seat.

Wheel Well began 6 years ago and has put just under 8000 children into safe car seats in that time. When they began, they had R5000 to set up their store. One of their biggest needs has been to refit the shop, create more storage, more shelving for donated seats and a light bright space where families can feel safe seeking advice or seats for their children.

The #CarseatFullstop pitch for Wheel Well included a motivation to the Ford Global Caring fund for a $5000 donation to help Wheel Well achieve this goal. Included in the motivation was also a budget to invest in some new car seats for the store so we could get more South African children into seats. We are so happy and grateful that the motivation was approved and Wheel Well got their first international donation to support the incredible work they do. Their shop will be getting a facelift in a few months.

On 28 September, #CarseatFullstop and 7 members of the Ford South Africa team came together at Wheel Well for a booster seat activation. Before starting the activation itself, Mars and Miller shared information with the Ford team on child safety in cars. The Ford team got to learn how every child under 1.5m tall needs a car seat to survive a crash. About the massive lack of knowledge about the booster seat stage, between ages 4 and 12. How to install a booster seat safely and how to secure a child safely in that seat.

The Ford Global Caring team was so keen to learn and be hands on. Once the activation was over, they even asked that the Wheel Well team show them what happens with the seats donated. They got their hands properly dirty, stripping and cleaning seat covers under the caring guidance of Wheel Well staff.

Families came to Wheel Well to donate the seats their children had outgrown, to check that the seats they have are safely installed or to make a donation to get their little ones into a safe booster seat. We bought 23 new booster seats from a safe affordable brand, and those seats, along with 3 refurbished seats went home to 26 safe little souls. There were 16 car seats donated, which will be given a loving new lease on life by Wheel Well… Before going on to save another 16 little lives.

One of the core tenets of what Wheel Well and #CarseatFullstop teach is that the best car seat for your child is the best car seat you can afford. It is a sad reality that often, the cost of a seat is directly related to the quality and safety of that seat. Any seat is better than no seat, but there are definite distinct levels of safety. Finding a “bargain” should never be the aim when shopping for a car seat. It is the only purchase in your life that is absolutely irreplaceable. Work out what you can sacrifice, what you can sell, what you can save, and set aside the biggest budget you can manage. For some that will be thousands or even tens of thousands; for others that may be only R250. And that is ok! As long as you do the very best that you can do.

Wheel Well does sell a range of new seats in different price ranges in addition to the second hand seats. They help you to install your seat properly and ensure you are using it safely. You can take your seats to them to clean safely. Any profits they make go directly into helping them do what they do. If you are in Randburg near Ferndale on Republic, you can pop into their shop to show your support. You can also donate your old seats to them at a few places nationwide, at the Wheel Well shop, Imperial Ford Kempton Park or Imperial Ford Airport Park.

Every child in South Africa deserves to be in a safe car seat. If you have an old seat, or you are looking for a new seat, or you just want to make a contribution to the amazing work that Wheel Well does, do it! Support the Wheel Well Car Seats for Kids campaign this October Transport Month, by sharing this post to raise awareness for the work they do and encourage people all over South Africa to donate any seat they have that is no longer being used.

South African roads are some of the most dangerous in the world. Transport deaths are one of the leading causes of non-natural deaths in children in our country. An AA study says that only 7% of children in private cars that need car seats to survive a crash are in car seats. Wheel Well and #CarseatFullstop team up regularly to learn from each other and share those learnings with South African families in their shared goal of getting every child in a car seat every time they get into a car, no matter what.

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