Active Events News
Active Events

Uganda 2016

This past June, Walkabout travelled back to Jinja, Uganda for the third time. With our fantastic partner, Soft Power Health Clinic, we have now distributed over 600 wheelchairs in the region and for the first time ever, we brought and distributed 30 tricycles (‘trikes’) alongside 200 wheelchairs. Trikes are exceptionally useful for those people with disabilities who have a need to travel long distances to get to school, work, and other villages.

During our trip, we met many inspirational individuals with both moving and uplifting stories. Today we’d like to share just one with you.

Sofia’s Story

Sofia, 32 years old, contracted polio as a young girl, which left her paralysed from the waist down. She lives with her baby Quima and her parents, who support her, along with her 12 nieces and nephews. The family had a coffee plantation and were financially stable. But since their coffee crops were destroyed by a disease in the soil, feeding the family and sending the children to school has become a constant struggle.

We gave Sofia a trike, and both she and her family were beyond delighted – Sofia will now be able to go out to the plantation and contribute to the family business. She’ll also be able to bring Quima with her and they’ll no longer be housebound. Sofia missed visiting her friends, leaving the house, going to prayers, attending burials (an important aspect of Ugandan life) and being a part of the community. These are all things that she is now able to do, thanks to her new trike.

We are so proud to have been able to give Sofia, her family, and numerous others like her a chance. They now all have their own story to tell.

The happy ending to Sofia’s story (and the numerous other happy endings we were able to bring about on this trip) would simply not have been possible without your generous and unwavering support. We thank you for helping us help others.

Kenya 2016

In June 2016, the Walkabout team headed back to Kenya for our third distribution at the United Disabled People of Laikipia (UDPL) clinic in the town of Nanyuki, located at the foothills of Mount Kenya. We distributed 230 wheelchairs (an assortment of Tough Riders, paediatric chairs and tricycles) and, as always, we were struck by the immense friendliness and positivity of everyone we met – from grateful recipients to the incredible local volunteers.

For the first few days of our trip, we were joined by a group of 12 teachers from Greenwich Country Day School in Connecticut, USA. Their interactions with the recipients were filled with love and respect, and their energy and dedication truly enhanced everyone’s experience on the trip.

After long days of fitting each recipient to each wheelchair, our Programs Manager and new staff member, lzzy and Merren, then took part in a World Health Organisation Wheelchair Provision training course. Walkabout not only funded this training for our own employees, but also for the local volunteers that we rely on in Nanyuki.

Our last few days in Kenya were then spent applying our new knowledge while we modified and fitted chairs for children with severe and complex disabilities. It was extremely rewarding work, with our modifications often meaning that these disabled kids could hold their heads up alone or sit up straight for the first time. When asked what he was going to do with his new chair, 14 –year-old William said simply: “I’m going to be comfortable!”

We are so grateful to our partners in Nanyuki, UDPL, who always make us feel at home and whose support is invaluable. And the biggest thank you goes to you, our donors, whose generosity makes all of this possible.

Luxury fashion fundraising at Bottega Veneta

On Tuesday May 24 2016, Walkabout held their first ever collaboration with the luxury brand Bottega Veneta at their Sloane Street location, in celebration of the Chelsea Flower Show. Walkabout supporters, as well as some of Bottega Veneta’s most noteworthy clients, admired their latest Spring collection and mingled over cocktails and canapes. Our co-founder Carolina also spoke about Walkabout, our mission and vision, and thanked the entire team at Bottega for hosting us.

The evening was an overwhelming success with over 80 people attending and Bottega generating a staggering £60,000 in sales in a matter of hours! Bottega Veneta kindly donated 10% of sales to Walkabout, which, including pledges, generated more than £7,000 for our cause. This was by far the most successful brand collaboration for Walkabout to date, which is a testament to the strength of our team and the effectiveness of our message to our donors.

We are now working closely with Bottega Veneta to possibly organise an event in New York; watch this space!

Walkabout hits the trading floor for BTIG Charity Day

On Tuesday May 10 2016, Walkabout Foundation teamed up with global financial services firm BTIG, LLC for their annual Charity Trading Day. With the help of our Head of Fundraising and ex broker Zeina Nassif as well as the President of BTIG in London, Matthew Cyzer, Walkabout Foundation received over 25 nominations from hedge fund and institutional clients of the Firm, who traded both in London and New York on behalf of our cause. In addition, BTIG hosted nearly 80 all-star athletes, models, actors and actresses from film and television, journalists and other cultural icons that acted as guest traders throughout its offices worldwide. Team Walkabout really enjoyed meeting Sky Sports News presenter Olivia Wayne as well as English Cricket star Reece Tapley on the London trading floor!

The day was a huge success, raising $Sm globally for over 300 well -deserving organisations that support meaningful causes. Walkabout received an extremely generous donation which will go towards our rehabilitation support programme in India this year.

Sudan 2016

In May 2016, the Walkabout team arrived in Sudan to distribute a container of 204 paediatric wheelchairs. This was our second distribution in Sudan, a country where nearly half the population still lives below the poverty line. We conducted a week-long distribution in the Omdurman area, in the outskirts of the capital Khartoum, helping more than 200 children improve their daily lives (and their families’) by providing them with a wheelchair that is properly sized, fitted and appropriate for the terrain that these children will now be able to navigate. For many it was the first time they were nearly independently mobile.

We were warmly received by the amazing teams of CSR Haggar Trading, the Haggar family, Usratuna and OVCI, whose employees, volunteers and physiotherapists made possible, despite all barriers, the safe arrival and successful distribution of a container from the other side of the globe. The Walkabout team was deeply moved by the warmth and generosity of all our local partners and the Omdurman community and families, who patiently endured the 40°C+ weather.

We are hugely thankful to those who helped us locally on this trip, especially Maria Luz and Anthony Haggar, but most importantly we would like to thank you, our donors, whose continued support has allowed us to return to Sudan.

Walkabout’s first visit to Panama

On April 12th 2016, Walkabout foundation travelled to Panama for the first time to distribute a container of 250 RoughRiders. Despite the country’s economic growth over recent years, about 25% of Panama’s population lives below the poverty line, and almost 10% suffer from some kind of physical disability.

Our distribution coincided with the 30th anniversary of the Special Olympics in Panama, and we were honoured to be asked to deliver our first chairs in the new sports centre for the disabled in the area of San Miguelito. We were joined by President Juan Carlos Varela and Mr Tim Shriver, Chairman of the Special Olympics Committee and son of its founder, Eunice Kennedy.

Witnessing the enthusiasm, courage and dedication of over 200 intellectually disabled children and young adults was a truly humbling experience. We then gave over 40 children their first proper wheelchair from a neighbouring special needs school. Until now, these children had either been sharing one of the few chairs available at their school, or did not have access to one at all.

We would like to thank the Secretaria Nacional de Discapacidad for all their work in partnering with us on this distribution. We are also especially grateful to the newly built windmill park Laudato Si, who financed 50% of this container, hoping to set an example for other corporations to follow. Thank you lnterEnergy and Rolando Gonzalez-Bunster!

And of course, these trips would not be possible without the continued support of you, our donors; and there is still a huge amount of work to be done!

Guatemala 2016

On 4 April 2016, Walkabout travelled to Guatemala to distribute 180 Hope Haven paediatric chairs and 70 postural support adult chairs. We were joined by the amazing Hope Haven team, made up of physios and wheelchair technicians, many of whom were in wheelchairs themselves. We conducted two distributions – one in the highlands, and the other by coast – and gave chairs predominantly to indigenous Mayan communities, who are generally the poorest in Guatemala.

Every child and adult was independently assessed and each chair was adapted perfectly for each recipient, to fit their often complex needs.

We met a number of people whose lives had been affected by gang violence and who had suffered spinal cord injuries as a result of gun shots. One of these was Hope Haven member Oscar. Oscar sustained a spinal cord injury when he was shot 11 times by gang members, simply for witnessing a crime. He was lucky to survive. Oscar struggled for many years to provide for his family, as is so often the case for people with disabilities in Guatemala, until he received a job from Hope Haven. He said he found freedom being able to serve others who were in a situation like his, and this helped him come to terms with his disability. Oscar has since played wheelchair basketball for his country; he is a real inspiration.

It is truly beautiful to witness someone being fitted for their first wheelchair by another wheelchair user. It brings so much light and hope to the recipient and their family; they can see exactly what they could achieve, and the possibility, opportunity and joy a wheelchair can bring. In a country that does little to help its large disabled population, these disabled wheelchairs are priceless.

The Walkabout team was deeply moved by the warmth and generosity of the 250 Guatemalans whose lives will be changed by these wheelchairs. We are extremely grateful to the Hope Haven team for their technical support and professionalism. And finally, we are hugely thankful to you, our supporters – without you, this trip would not have been possible.

India 2015

Last week Walkabout returned to India to distribute a container of wheelchairs with our local partner, APD in Bangalore. In total we fitted 257 wheelchairs to children and adults suffering from a variety of conditions ranging from cerebral palsy (CP) to spinal cord injuries (SCls) very often sustained as a result of traffic collisions and accidents at work.

The number of children born with CP in India is very high, especially in the poorer rural areas, where marriage within the same family, although in decline, is still fairly common and where antenatal care is negligent and many women give birth in unsuitable conditions. The problem is further aggravated by the fact that these parents often have no means or guidance whatsoever on how to take care of their disabled child, who will suffer unnecessarily from a variety of side effects such as severe postural deformities and malnourishment due to inadequate care. As for those spinal cord injured, their families also frequently have no knowledge on what care is required and consequently many suffer from life threatening infections and pressure sores that could have been easily avoided.

Fortunately, there are wonderful organisations doing amazing work to serve their communities, some of which we are privileged enough to work with. APD, for example, is doing an incredible job through their early intervention programme, where they liaise with local hospitals to identify CP cases at birth and give appropriate advice and support to the families, and through a spinal cord rehabilitation unit they operate. They also run an extraordinary livelihood programme where they train disabled people on a variety of vocational skills ranging from gardening to hospitality and computer skills. We visited their horticultural centre in the outskirts of the city where 150 disabled individuals learn gardening skills over 3 to 6 month courses and leave to a guaranteed job which APO sources for them.

We were deeply moved and humbled by everything we saw and learned during our stay in India. Walkabout truly hopes to continue to count on your generosity to be able to support these invaluable organisations through wheelchairs and rehabilitation.

Nepal 2015

A few weeks ago a cargo of highly specialised wheelchairs from Walkabout finally hit Nepal. It was a long and arduous journey from GRIT, our manufacturers in the South of India. Following the devastating earthquake back in April, only one particular type of truck, in high demand, is currently able to overcome the country’s now even more treacherous terrain.

Since the earthquake, the Spinal Injury Rehabilitation Centre for Nepal (SIRC) has been overwhelmed with the demand of those needing treatment and long term care for spinal cord injuries. The one hundred Leveraged Freedom Chairs (LFCs) we sent are no ordinary wheelchairs. Riders push levers instead of wheels, giving them the torque they need for the extremely rough and mountainous terrain of Nepal. SIRC were joined by an expert LFC technician from India and the seating team, Team Canada Healing Hands (TCHH), who had flown all the way from Canada. This skilled international team ensured each chair was fitted to the respective individuals’ body shape, size and needs. Furthermore, each recipient received wheelchair skills training, learning how to move around, maintain and repair their new wheelchair. This is an essential part of how at Walkabout we view wheelchair provision as often an incorrectly fitted chair, without the appropriate training, may do more harm than good.

We are extremely proud to have helped these one hundred individuals and the numerous others that this wheelchair will impact, in particular their families and communities. This was only possible due to all our wonderful donors who so promptly and generously supported our Nepal campaign and to whom we send a huge thank you. We would also like to thank our partners, SIRC, our suppliers, GRIT, and the TCHH seating team who all continue to do an incredible job. Thank you!

250 chairs to Argentina

In October 2015 we travelled to Argentina, where we distributed a container of 250 RoughRiders with our amazing local partner, Fundacion Banco Provincia (BAPRO). We travelled around the province, distributing specially adapted chairs to both children and adults, and meeting some truly incredible and inspirational people. We would like to share a few with you.

 

Marcelo is 30 years old, and lost both legs in a train accident aged just 15. He is clever and capable but has never been able to find a job — until now he’s been living on meagre state benefits while begging on the streets of Buenos Aires. Thanks to the coordinated action between Walkabout, BAPRO and local partners Marcelo now has his first ever wheelchair, new prosthetics on the way and has just received a job offer at a local library!

 

Priscilla turned 10 the day we gave her a wheelchair. She suffers from myotonic dystrophy, as does her three year old sister Zaina, with whom she had been sharing an old and battered wheelchair. Priscilla was thrilled and couldn’t stop smiling! And don’t worry, we didn’t forget her sister – she got a brand new RoughRider too!

 

Nestor put on his Sunday best to receive his wheelchair. He had polio as a child but that has never stopped him from living life to the full. He is a great cook and at 70 is still a true “galan” (go check that in your dictionary!).

It wouldn’t have been possible to change the lives of any of these incredible individuals or the other 247 without your amazing generosity and support. Many asked us to thank you so here goes the biggest Thank you!

The Inaugural Walkabout Gala

We are proud and humbled to announce that on June 27th 2015, we hosted our very first Walkabout Gala with President Bill Clinton as our keynote speaker, which raised over 1.5 million pounds (or 2.4 million dollars)!

The former US President attended the black tie event held at London’s Natural History Museum and delivered a moving speech praising our co-founders, brother and sister, Luis and Carolina Gonzalez-Bunster.

“When they started Walkabout, I was touched by the fact that they wanted to do two things that to me are highly compatible – paralysis research and empowering people in very poor places to beat the stigma that surrounds all kinds of physical disabilities” said President Clinton. He was joined by a host of stars, including Formula 1 driver Jenson Button, supermodel Natalia Vodianova, Prince Nikolaos and Princess Tatiana of Greece, actors Ed Westwick, Michelle Yeoh, Naomie Harris and Stephen Merchant, with TV presenter, Tania Bryer, acting as the evening’s host.

Afters three-course dinner in the spectacularly decorated dinosaur atrium, thanks to Polar Black Events, art expert Simon de Pury got the charity auction under way. Lots included lunch with Damien Hirst and the ultimate McLaren experience with Jenson himself.

A grateful Luis, who was left paralysed afters car accident in 1994, gave insight into his daily life, saying it had taken him “several hours to shower, dress and prepare himself” for the night, and that his suffering could not compare to what “the handicapped poor of the world must endure.”

The evening, which ended with an energetic performance by Chic star Nile Rodgers, will change the lives of thousands and help to make a reality the first Walkabout therapy and vocational training centre in Haiti.

Uganda 2015

On the 14th of June Walkabout Foundation made its second trip to the Soft Power Health clinic in Jinja, a town in the eastern region of Uganda near the banks of lake Victoria and the River Nile, and surrounding villages. We brought with us another 200 ‘Tough Rider’ and ‘Salama’ wheelchairs, supplied by the Association for the Physically Disabled of Kenya (APDK), as well as an expert team of volunteers and physiotherapists.

Throughout the distribution the team tirelessly devoted their time and expertise to making sure that every wheelchair was fitted according to each person’s challenges and needs. This was a very demanding task, as many of the recipients were children suffering from severe cases of cerebral palsy, malaria, hydrocephalus or polio. Everyone was stunned by the complexity of the disabilities they encountered, but left inspired and deeply moved after providing another 200 people with the chairs they desperately needed, bringing new hope and possibilities for a brighter future.

We’d like extend our special thanks to the team at Soft Power Health clinic, who hosted the project and gathered together numerous physiotherapists who are in scarce supply in Uganda. This means that each recipient received, and will continue to receive, the highest level of care.

We’d also like to thank our volunteers, whose dedication and passion is continuing to make the Walkabout vision a reality, changing hundreds of lives.