In 1974 the World Federation of Occupational Therapy Congress created Vona an Honorary Fellow. The citation reads in part: “We believe that Vona has had an inestimable influence on the development of the profession in South Africa and her imagination and her pre-sight have had far reaching effects beyond the confines of her country. We recognize her indestructible belief in the worth of her profession and her unflagging efforts to stimulate its growth in breadth and depth”
HJV du Toit, nee van Straaten, known fondly as Vona, received her diploma in occupational therapy from the University of Witwatersrand in 1946, one of the first to qualify in South Africa. .In 1952 after various pioneering positions in Pretoria, Vona went to work and study in England while her husband, Dr.Stephen du Toit, specialized in Pediatrics. Later they returned to South Africa, their family grew to include three daughters; Marie, Suzanne and Annette whose childhood development doubtless inspired much in Vona’s theories. Settling in Pretoria Vona started a private practice and engaged in pursuits and interactions which nurtured her approach to occupational therapy, an approach which would prove so meaningful to the profession. Returning to studies in 1962, Vona undertook the Teaching Diploma in Occupational Therapy (Dip. Ed. Ther. Voc.), which she passed Cum Laude at Pretoria University.
In 1963 she became principal of the Pretoria College of Occupational Therapy and head of clinical services, positions she held until her passing in 1974. At this time, the college was renamed the Vona du Toit College of Occupational Therapy in honour of her transformative influence, She was revered as a pioneer occupational therapist during the 1950’s – 70’s and was recognised as an inspirational thinker, teacher and an undisputed leader in the profession, held in the highest esteem by her colleagues and honoured both nationally and internationally. She is particularly acclaimed for her pioneering of the theory of Creative Ability which is the basis of the Practice Model of Creative Ability, now known as the VdTMoCA. The atmosphere of enthusiasm and fun engendered by Vona during the early days of exploring the theory and practice of Creative Ability was memorable and a factor in the remarkable endurance of the concepts over time.
The Marié du Toit Foundation was established in 1973 to honour the memory of Marie, the eldest daughter of Vona and Stephen du Toit who qualified from the Pretoria College of Occupational Therapy in December 1971. Marie was intellectually gifted as demonstrated by the quality and insight of her project work and was awarded the greatest number of distinctions won by a student at this College
Marie had a special interest in Vona’s theory of creative ability and after graduating worked in psychiatry applying the Model and collaborating with her mother in research.
Marie had a sparkling personality and is still remembered for her joy of living and sincere love for and interest in people. She pursued her studies and career with enthusiasm characterized by her diligence and capacity for consistent effort. The Marié du Toit Award is awarded annually to reflect these qualities and to encourage research projects amongst newly qualified occupational therapists.
An authoritative text provisionally titled ‘The Vona du toit Model of Creative Ability ; Theoretical underpinnings and Application’, is currently being prepared for publication. It will address a very real and urgent need for an up-to-date comprehensive text on the VdTMoCA for international distribution. Publication details: The book will be published by the V&MdTF. Publication…