When 31-year old Dave Ensberg was born, complications arose that left his mother permanently disabled. She became dependent on a wheelchair, lost her job as a teacher, and found it very frustrating to ask for help with even the simplest things. But with help from family, friends and local services, she found a way to explore other, new talents. She started visiting museums, painting pictures and even wrote her own life story. Even though she died at age 50, she had shown the world that people with a disability are just as beautiful as anyone.
Dave was greatly hurt by his mother’s death, and for a long time, he felt very down. Thanks to help of a man named Koos who believed in him and offered him a place to live and work, he turned his life around. He made his way through university and is now chairman of the board of seven special education schools. He hears from a lot of students that they’re sad they need to go to a ‘special’ school; they would rather just be normal children.
During his talk, Dave explains that every child is just a child. He learnt from personal experience that no matter your abilities and disabilities, every person has talents that need to be developed. Putting labels and pressure on children that deviate from the norm puts enormous social and mental strain on them. It’s time for us to turn this around. To stop treating people as different, but instead, become a Koos.
One of the days that turned Dave’s life around was when he went canoeing with his mentor and friends. Though he wasn’t a talent in the water, he did experience the incredible feeling of being normal and belonging. An African saying goes: It takes a village to raise a child. If more and more people become a Koos to even one child, it will help them feel like a normal child. It will help them grow and explore their talents, and our society as a whole will become more inclusive. You can become a Koos simply by playing with a child. At the end of his talk, Dave drops plastic beach balls into the audience and tells them: Use this to play with a child in your neighborhood. This goes for our readers too. Make a simple change. Spend some time being a Koos. It’s that simple.