Phindile Chauke
3 minute read
19 Apr 2014
8:00 am

Meet the face of the Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital

Phindile Chauke

Four years ago Michai'ah Simons was just like any other ordinary toddler, fascinated by anything she could lay her hands on.

MADIBA AND ME. Kevin, Michai'ah, Allegra (on her mother's lap) and Alison Simons share in the excitement about Michai'ah's responsibility. Here she holds the picture with her on Madiba's lap taken in 2009. Picture: Refilwe Modise.

However, although still oblivious to the reality around her now at six years old, the little girl’s social standing shifted the moment she met former President Nelson Mandela at a Wits University ceremony in 2009 to hand over land in Parktown, Gauteng, for the political icon’s long held dream of building a children’s hospital.

Michai’ah was randomly picked from a group of children at the ceremony that day and given a petite-sized medical practitioner’s hospital uniform complete with stethoscope. Her cute mini-doctor look saw her charm her way onto Madiba’s lap.

The next day a photo of the toddler doctor on Mandela’s lap made the front pages of several South African newspapers and magazines.

The photograph’s publication marked Michai’ah’s debut media appearance, and it was not long before her face was splashed across the newspapers, that the little girl also charmed her way to the hearts of the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund’s officials. This was followed by her parents Kevin and Alison Simons being approached by Madiba’s organisation for their daughter to be the face of the Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital.

“My mother was handling the event at Wits and was told to bring her grandkids. It was by coincidence that she ended up being the face of the hospital,” Alison Simons said.

From her demeanor during an interview with Saturday Citizen at her home in Fairlands, Johannesburg, the magnitude of Michai’ah being the face of the Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital had still not sunk in.

Dressed in pink pyjamas matching those of her three-year-old sibling, Allegra, they initially both excitedly made their way to the kitchen to greet before they quickly ran off to a nearby bedroom.

With the same confidence Michai’ah displayed last month when she gave her brief “Let’s do this!” speech at the sod turning ceremony of the Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital, the little girl took a position at the dining room table as if she was ready to tackle any questions.

“My friends do not believe me when I tell them about the picture in the newspapers until they see the newspapers,” said the Grade One pupil who loves giraffes, dolphins and horses. But this is not just any girl who loves everything pink. “I love navy blue, green and yellow,” she said before her mother chipped in to say “but those are your school uniform colours”.

Michai’ah is still undecided about what she wants to be when she grows up. However, dreams of becoming a pop star, a president and a doctor have been shared in recent months.

Asked what role she will be playing at the Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital, with conviction Michai’ah said: “I am going to help the other children get better.”

Her mother described the girl as generally being an intelligent and confident child.

“One thing we said to ourselves was that we do not want her to just be the face and we have made her aware of the responsibility that comes with this. We, as her parents, have also stepped up to actively raise funds for the hospital,” her father, Kevin Simons, said.

He added: “We have started getting her to understand this.”

But her father was quick to admi: “It is not easy to explain to a six-year-old.

“As she grows older, we are taking things one step at a time to allow her to be herself.”