Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Art Therapist Empowers South African Amputee

Two remarkable things happened after South African youngster William Smith was checked into Cape Town's Red Cross War Memorial Children's Hospital last fall. Firstly, he refused to cry, despite losing his entire right arm and half of his left arm as a result of being electrocuted on a high-voltage electrical tower. Secondly, Sascha Archer, an American art therapist recently relocated from the state of Washington, upped her weekly volunteer days at the hospital in order to help Smith make a remarkable spiritual recovery.

Once Archer showed the now 13-year-old Smith how to draw pictures using his mouth and feet, the little boy was off to the races. During a six-month supervised recovery, he authored 200 drawings, learned the basics of four new languages, and taught himself how to dolphin-swim.

Now, Archer is trying to fundraise money to pay for prosthetic limbs. Her plan includes selling the boy's artwork, soliciting donations, and holding fundraising screenings for her 26-minute documentary Driving William, which shows twice tomorrow night at Portland's Hollywood Theatre.


The film was made in partnership with Jo Higgs, owner of Go Trolley Films. Higgs has a section on her website titled “For Love,” where she catalogs one-workday-per-week pro bono efforts such as Driving William. Explains Archer:

William is the bravest and most determined child I have ever had the pleasure of working with. His story has changed my life radically and I felt we needed a means to give him a voice and express what he has endured and overcome during the last nine months of his life...
In addition to fundraising for William’s prostheses, the movie will be sent to international festivals and aired on television. It will also be used as an educational tool in hospitals such as Red Cross, to inspire and give hope to other amputees and burn patients.”

The title of the film comes from its subject's desire to one day be able to drive a car.

[Driving William]

Editorial Note - 01/26/12: This article has been updated, per comments below, to correct inaccuracies with regards to Sascha Alexander's name and the gender of Ms. Higgs. FilmStew regrets the errors.


  1. Hi Richard,

    I just stumbled upon this entry. Thank you for sharing our story. . . but I have to tell you, my name is: Sascha Archer, not Sasha Alexander (I'm the Art Therapist) and my friend and colleague who made the movie: Jo Higgs, is a female ;)
    Would be great if you could make those corrections!

    Thanks again and all the best,

    1. Very sloppy on my part. And not even sure how I came up with "Sasha Alexander". Fixed.