There are some wonderful humans in this world and Willem epitomised the rarest type – cool, funny and kind.
Sadly you left earth far too soon.
Before you left us however – you were instrumental in the design of a beautiful playground at the Children’s Memorial Institute.
I would personally like to thank you on behalf of the autism community and everyone who benefits from this playground at the Children’s Memorial Institute.
History of the Project
Ronel van Biljon, Principal at the Johannesburg School for Autism says, “This project was kick-started by David o’ Sullivan ( at that time with 702 ) for a Mandela Day Project. He mentioned the school and the lack of facilities for learners to play. Bhawna Gulab and John van Reenen then came on board to finance the development. We had meetings with an international organisation for ideas and the school’s therapists also took part in proposing ideas. Initially it was proposed to be a playground for the school but I felt that all the NGOs/NPOs working with children in the building should benefit from the playground.
We had intensive meetings with the team and Willem was integral to the development of the playground. Although the school was involved regularly to adopt the ideas and to ensure that it was Autism friendly we also realised that the playground had to service all learners.”
Personal Note – It was hard to see your friends & family at your memorial service struggling to accept the fact that you are gone, but to them I say this – ‘there is a garden in this wonderful city much beloved by Willem where his name will forever be. The sound of happy children frolicking in the playground will echo the joy & happiness that he brought to the world’
There is still work to be done in the playground – in the form of big ‘dongas’ where trampolines need to be installed – along with fences around them to manage numbers of eager jumpers.
If you would like to get involved in some way, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Jozi 4 Autism
Willem Coetzee graduated from UCT & spent 8 years in the architectural sector. He also founded The Fresh Lab – a sustainable architecture and lifestyle company.
Photos kindly shared by Nicolette Froneman Photography.