Active Events News
Active Events

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.

Kenya 2015

In June 2015 Walkabout Foundation travelled back to the United Disabled Persons of Laikipia (UDPL) clinic in Nanyuki, Kenya, to distribute a further 200 wheelchairs. This year we also funded our first ever World Health Organisation Wheelchair Provision Training run by our supplier and partner, Association for the Physically Disabled of Kenya (APDK).

During the first week, nine local Kenyans and one Walkabout team member were fully trained in how to medically assess, fit and support wheelchair recipients. Our local partner, UDPL carefully hand-picked those who would be trained, individuals who work within the disabled community but lacked the fundamental knowledge and skills to serve those who need wheelchairs. Empowered by their training, Walkabout now has a network of motivated and proficient local volunteers who can serve wheelchair users on a day-to-day basis, even while our team is not present.

The following week they were able to put their new abilities into practice. With the help of UDPL, a few physios, local volunteers and a team of faculty members from Greenwhich County Day School in Connecticut, Walkabout distributed 200 rough terrain wheelchairs to adults and children in desperate need of one.

The entire team were deeply moved and humbled to see the impact that one wheelchair has. It really is indescribable the moment of pure joy when someone first moves onto their new wheelchair, you can see a world of opportunity open up on their face in an instant. As President Clinton insightfully said at the recent Walkabout Inaugural Gala: “It’s not just mobility, it’s possibility.”

Thank you to all of our volunteers, partners and most of all to our supporters who made all of this possible.

Haiti 2014

100 wheelchairs are now making their way to Haiti, just in time for Christmas, as part of Walkabout’s ongoing commitment to change more lives and help the country recover from the devastating earthquake back in 2010.

This directly follows on from another very successful distribution of 300 wheelchairs in November, bringing the total number of chairs sent to Haiti this year to 720. The Prime Minister, Laurent Lamothe, has been taking a really hands-on approach, helping our trained volunteers to build and individually fit the wheelchairs, and we witnessed first-hand evidence of yet more people for whom chairs have changed lives.

One person whose life was transformed by her custom-fitted Walkabout chair is 17-year-old Iclide Simeon, from Jacmel in southern Haiti, who lost the use of her legs after she was shot in September 2013. Iclide was beginning to develop a postural deformity in her spine owing to an ill-fitting wheelchair from which she repeatedly fell. Now, thanks to her new Rough Rider chair, Iclide can comfortably and independently receive the physical rehabilitation, psychosocial support and vocational skills training she needs to prepare her for reintegration into the community.

Another Rough Rider recipient for whom life is much less of a struggle is 31-year-old Zephyrin Chrism, who became paraplegic after falling from a tree in April of this year. Zephyrin was experiencing extreme discomfort from using a wheelchair that was too small from him, but is now very happy and his new chair he received in October is his pride and joy.

We would like to say a huge thank you to our local partner in Haiti, BSEIPH, and in particular to David Charles and Gerald Oriol for all their hard work. And we would also like to thank all of you who have supported our endeavour in Haiti through your generous donations. So far these have enabled us to distribute 2,300 of the 10,000 chairs we originally pledged. If you would like to change more lives like these by making a contribution to this programme, or to a project in any of the other countries to which we distribute, just follow the tab above to our “donate” page and give whatever you can.

Walkabout returns to Pakistan

In 2014, Walkabout Foundation returned to Pakistan for a second time to transform the lives of 250 men and women across Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi. These individuals, struggling with mobility disabilities in Pakistan, were provided with RoughRider wheelchairs which are exclusively designed for the rugged and rough terrain of the developing world.

One recipient, Muhammad Junaid, 14 years old from Islamabad, told us: “He was born with polio and for the past 14 years, he has crawled on the ground as his family didn’t have any money to buy him a wheelchair. He has spent the last 14 years crawling on the ground using only a piece of rubber strapped to his waist to protect his buttocks and lower limbs as he shuffled. Despite all these difficulties, he never gave up; in fact he was motivated to excel and do well in school. He and his family are very thankful to Walkabout Foundation for providing him with a wheelchair which has given him mobility and therefore freedom and independence. Muhammad would like to become a school teacher when he grows up, proof that in fact #chairschangelives.”

Our successful distribution would not have been possible without the help of our local Pakistani partner, Mahvash and Jahangir Siddiqui Foundation, and a special thank you to Ali Munir without whom this distribution would not have been possible. Thank you for helping to change more lives in Pakistan!

Walkabout’s first trip to Cuba

On 28 October 2014, Walkabout visited Cuba for the very first time. In partnership with ACLIFIM, a Cuban organization that works with physically handicapped people and amputees to help them integrate into society, we launched our first project with a distribution of 250 wheelchairs. 200 Rough Riders and 50 paediatric chairs were individually fitted to people in need from Mayabeque, Havana, Artemisa and Matanzas.

We would like to say a special thank you to a very generous donor, Eduardo Costa, whose amazing fundraising efforts in the New York City half marathon back in March made all this possible. If you would like to raise money for Walkabout and have a say in where we distribute our wheelchairs, just send us an email at info@walkaboutfoundation.org.

Malawi 2014

On the 25th July, Team Walkabout returned to Malawi for a second time to individually fit 250 wheelchairs. Bryony and Stefanie were accompanied by summer intern, Phaedra de Saint Rome on this trip to work in partnership with MAP (Malawi Against Physical Disability).

During the week, the team travelled the entire length of the country to ensure as many people as possible could be fitted. Fittings were carried out in Blantyre, Zomba, Lilongwe and Rumphi covering a total of 676 miles in a few short days. The team made many new friends, all with inspirational stories but one that stood out for us in particular is Talandila, aged 13, pictured above, whose face lit up when her mother told Walkabout that she would finally be able to start school in September. Another amazing example of how chairs change lives.

Our successful distribution would not have been possible without the help of MAP’s incredible team -Thank you for helping us to change more lives in Malawi! Special thanks also go to Phaedra for her invaluable help throughout the week.

Haiti 2014

Team Walkabout recently travelled to Haiti, the country where we first donated wheelchairs after the devastating earthquake in 2010. Monica Gonzalez-Bunster and Director of Programs Stefanie Haigh took a trip to Port-au-Prince, Fond des Blancs, Cap-Haitien and Central Plateau to meet some of the individuals whose lives have been changed by the donation of a Walkabout wheelchair.

They were told many inspiring stories of previous recipients who have now started a new career, hobby or life as a Walkabout wheelchair user. For example, Eugene Fritzner (pictured above with Monica) is now a prominent wheelchair athlete! The team also spent some time visiting our partners, BSEIPH (the Secretary of State’s Office for Persons with Disability), to talk about our ongoing pledge to donate 10,000 wheelchairs to Haiti, as well as talking to customs officials to ensure a smooth donation arrivals process into the country.

All in all, it was a very successful trip. Thank you to everyone who has donated to Walkabout since the beginning. Your money has enabled us to change thousands of lives and make a huge impact on a country that desperately needed help.

India 2014

On the 31st May 2014, Team Walkabout travelled to India for the first time to distribute 250 Leverage Freedom Chairs (LFC) alongside The Association of People with Disability (APD) Bangalore. Bryony and Georgie were accompanied by a team from GoGrit, designers and manufacturers of the LFC.

The LFC is a new rough-terrain wheelchair where the riders push levers instead of the wheels, giving them the torque they need to move beyond to pavement. As well as a full distribution day at the main APD campus in Bangalore, the team also travelled to a number of districts throughout the state of Karnataka to fit all 250 wheelchairs during the five-day distribution.

Walkabout would like to commend APD on their outstanding commitment to helping the disabled community of Karnataka, and all of the support and hard work in helping put together such a well organised and successful week. Special thanks also goes to the team from GoGrit for their invaluable help.

Indonesia 2014

After a wheelchair training course in Indonesia in April 2014, Team Walkabout also spent a few days distributing chairs for Indonesians on the island of Java, in the Yogyakarta area, before heading to Bali to change more lives.

Stefanie and Bryony spent some time meeting the United Cerebral Palsy Wheels for Humanity (UCP Roda Untuk Kemanusiaan) team in Yogyakarta, touring their workshop and learning from their well-established in-country system, before donating just under 50 intermediate chairs to the local community alongside the UCPRUK team. Team Walkabout then flew to donate more chairs in Bali in the Rendang area alongside Puspadi Bali, UCPRUK’s Balinese partner. This was Team Walkabout’s first venture into South-East Asia and we were not only touched by the local hospitality but also grateful to the teams for all of their guidance.

Thank you to UCPWFH, UCPRUK and Puspadi Bali for helping us to change more lives in a new area.