Perky progeria girl, 12, charms audience
Twelve-year-old Ontlametse Phalatse took to the stage in Cape Town in a blue sparkly dress, her tiny hands barely covering the microphone as she told her audience of her dream of becoming a psychologist.
The occasion was a charity lunch at the Nelson Mandela Auditorium in the city, arranged to help raise funds for her medical care.
Ontlametse, from Hebron in Gauteng, is one of 78 cases worldwide of the disease progeria, which causes rapid premature ageing.
Sufferers usually die around age 13, due to a stroke or heart attack.
A television documentary on Ontlametse’s life has captured the hearts of millions, bringing her struggles into the public eye.
It featured her struggle for acceptance at her school, her dreams despite the fact she’s not expected to live much longer, and her trip to the US where she is participating in a clinical trial.
During yesterday’s lunch, entitled “In Conversation with Ontlametse Phalatse”, she spoke of her dream of becoming a psychologist.
Her audience sat spellbound as her tiny voice echoed through the auditorium: “I’ve always helped my family with their problems and want to help others too.
“I think people spend too much time worrying, instead of doing, and they don’t live and enjoy their lives. That’s why I want to become a psychologist and help people appreciate the lives God blessed them with.”
Her personal experiences had taught her not to worry about others’ opinions, and to always move forward in life.
“I’m used to people looking at me in malls or saying nasty things. But I just stare them down until they walk away, and then I carry on with my life.”
Her mother, Bellon Phalatse, said her daughter had been a source of strength for their family. “When I feel weak, she will tell me to stop crying and be strong. And I always listen.”
More than R7 000 was raised at the auction organised by SAA, Woolworths, the Black Management Forum, and the United Jewish Campaign .