Perky proge­ria girl, 12, charms au­di­ence

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - NEWS - KOWTHAR SOLOMONS

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 .

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