In 2002 we were able to distribute 50 wheelchairs to disabled people in several remote regions of Kenya.
The inspiration for the wheelchair project came as I was visiting the Spinal Cord Injuries Hospital in Nairobi some time ago. This hospital provides medical care and rehabilitation services for people who have sustained paralyzing spinal cord injuries. We were providing wheelchairs to two young men waiting to return home. After talking to these patients and their social workers, I realized that there is a great need for wheelchairs. Many patients are stranded in the hospital, unable to return home due to lack of simple transportation equipment. Apparently, in Kenya thousands of severely crippled people are without wheelchairs. The government in Kenya does not provide free health care nor any medical equipment.
The Rotary Club of Nairobi had a long list of requests, but could provide only a few wheelchairs per month. My further inquiries led me to understand the serious nature of the disabled people and their unnecessary suffering. In some places we went, for example a district called Machakos, due to malnutrition, disease or other difficulties, 10% of the population are disabled. Since the government does not provide much assistance, these innocent people solely depend on humanitarian organizations to support them.
As we went to distribute wheelchairs, every gathering had three times more disabled people than available wheelchairs. In talking to the people, I found out some had crawled for miles to the distribution site. It was heartbreaking to see people crawling away and mothers carrying disabled children back home without a wheelchair. To my surprise, those who did not get a wheelchair never complained. Some crawled away saying “maybe next time.” Their skinny callused legs and sad faces filled with pain inspired me to work harder and do more to help those innocent people. It gave me great joy to participate in making a difference in their lives. I would like to share that joy with the sponsors and supporters of this project.
Because of the severity of the disabilities and the desperate need for wheelchairs, we are now working on obtaining a container of chairs from China in 2003. This will make it possible to cut the current cost by 50%. Niven, of Mombassa Bed Canopies has gathered information for this project in one of his recent visits to China. We are working on preparing the shipment of several hundred wheelchairs by the summer. In Kenya, one of the generous contributors to our project has provided the storage space and promised to oversee the customs clearance and safety of the equipment.