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Building on the success of its 2022 pilot campaign in the Western and Eastern Cape Provinces, the
award-winning health education initiative, FAST Heroes, is gearing up for its 2023 campaign, inviting
primary schools nationwide to register and help save lives.
Endorsed and supported by the World Stroke Organisation, FAST Heroes has an important mission:
to enlist a million young heroes who will play a crucial role in safeguarding their grandparents from
the potential impact of a stroke. Designed for primary school children aged 5 to 9 years, this
compelling campaign aims to equip them with the ability to recognise stroke symptoms and
understand the urgency of immediate action – to call an ambulance.
Through a 5-week curriculum, facilitated by teachers and involving weekly activities and
reinforcement, children learn and internalise the signs of a stroke and the steps to take during a
stroke emergency. The educational resources within the FAST Heroes program are designed to
captivate young minds. They are interactive, engaging, and fun. Beyond imparting life-saving skills,
the program also nurtures values such as empathy and compassion.
“Statistics show that stroke is a serious concern in South Africa and globally, ranking as the second
leading cause of death and the third leading cause of disability worldwide. Unfortunately, many
stroke victims don’t receive timely medical care due to a lack of awareness about the key signs.
Children hold the power to change this by educating their families,” emphasises Prof Naidoo, CEO of
the Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa.
Embracing their inherent passion for learning and sharing, children are encouraged to become
health advocates and “superheroes” within their families, particularly with their beloved
grandparents. The primary focus is on empowering them to educate their families, particularly their
grandparents, about the signs of a stroke and the importance of quickly calling an ambulance.
The campaign introduces children to the three most prevalent stroke symptoms through the
engaging analogy of “the evil Clot” striking. Guided by a cast of animated characters including retired
superhero grandparents and their grandchildren – Timmy and Tanya, children become adept at
identifying the three key signs of a stroke: facial drooping, arm weakness, and speech impairment.
The characters emphasise the importance of promptly calling an ambulance. This vital process gave
rise to the acronym FAST, reflecting the symptoms of a stroke and the urgency of getting prompt
During the pilot program in 2022, Nina Ras from Brackenfell Primary School in the Western Cape was
a finalist for the Teacher’s Award. She received recognition as South Africa’s Teacher of the Year for
her unwavering dedication to the campaign. With Nina’s guidance, over 500 learners participated in
the FAST Heroes initiative.
Nina shared her insights about the program, “Being part of the FAST Heroes campaign has been a
rewarding experience. Witnessing the enthusiasm and dedication of our young learners as they
become agents of change is truly inspiring.”
The FAST Heroes campaign was conceptualised by the Department of Education and Social Policy at
the University of Macedonia in Europe. The campaign’s implementation in South Africa is made
possible through the support of the Angels Initiative by Boehringer Ingelheim. The Heart and Stroke
Foundation South Africa (HSFSA), a non-profit organisation, is the chosen local partner for this
Renathe Van Der Merwe, the national coordinator for Fast Heroes, says “With global stroke figures
on the rise, recognising stroke symptoms and knowing how to respond are vital life skills. Children
serve as exceptional messengers for disseminating this crucial message to adults around them. I
extend a challenge to schools to join forces; together, we can make a transformative difference and
save lives, one grandparent at a time!”