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South African Guide Dogs Association (SAGA)

Baby Soft gives the visually impaired a best friend

If you’ve ever been blindfolded and put your trust in another person to lead you to a point, then you’ll know how overwhelming the feeling of insecurity can be in taking that next step. While this might be a fun game to play with friends, for a blind person this is the challenge faced in everyday life.

Pieter van Niekerk, Public Relations Officer for the South African Guide Dogs Association (SAGA), has been blind for most of his life. He was classified as blind at birth and although he did have partial sight as a youngster, it steadily diminished. “I dream about seeing and I often wonder what it must be like to have sight and to see the colours of my surroundings,” he says.

Pieter found walking with a cane difficult and he wasn’t comfortable with the concept. “It takes a lot of concentration and its hard work. You get knocked and bumped and if you lose your focus for a split second you could fall or slip,” he says. In his early twenties, Pieter decided to get a Guide Dog. He liked the idea of having a companion, but without the training, equipment and support of the South African Guide Dogs Association (SAGA), Pieter would never have achieved his dream of being independent and mobile.

SAGA is a non-profit organisation that relies solely on sponsorships and donations. Started by Gladys Evans, a visually impaired woman in 1953, SAGA has grown from training their first dog in 1955 to training 35 to 40 dogs a year.

Despite the expensive cost of R10 000 to train a Guide Dog, a visually impaired person, such as Pieter, has only had to pay a nominal fee of R105 which covered three weeks of training, accommodation and equipment. “Ronnie” is Pieter’s third Guide Dog and the bond they share is akin to family.

Life before Pieter got his dog was lonely and socially difficult. “I’m much more extroverted now. My dog helps to break down social barriers. People can relate to me because they know straight away that I’m blind,” he explains. “A Guide Dog is also a great way to meet women,” laughs Pieter as he tells of his recent marriage to Susan.

Kimberly-Clark, through its premium Toilet Tissue brand Baby Soft®, is proud to be supporting SAGA in its social responsibility initiative. Baby Soft® is committed to improving the lives of visually impaired South Africans by initiating an on-pack SMS promotion from October to November 2006. For each SMS donation, the consumer can receive one of 20 000 Baby Soft Guide puppies. The proceeds from each SMS will go to SAGA.

Baby Soft Promotion Details:

This on-pack promotion will be supported by on-pack stickers on specially marked packs (as well as in store and through a television campaign) that will communicate the offering, as well as the association between Kimberly-Clark and SAGA.

The sticker’s on-pack will feature a number to which consumers can SMS their unique on-pack code. The first 20 000 SMS’s will receive a Baby Soft® Guide Puppy.

The promotion runs until the end December 2006 while stocks last.

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