Active Events Stories
Active Events

Mary’s Story

Mary is from South Sudan and is over 100 years old – though she’s not sure of her exact age! When she was 30, just after she got married, she was struck by polio – and hasn’t been able to walk since. She has never before had a wheelchair.

Mary has lived not only through the current ongoing war in South Sudan, but also the war for independence from North Sudan – Africa’s longest-running civil war. She lost two of her sons as a result of the conflict, and last year, carried by her remaining children and grandchildren, she fled her country, leaving her whole life behind. She said: “I don’t miss South Sudan, there I saw my friends and sons being killed. And after all I’m just happy to be alive and looking back never helps.”

She is a vibrant, plucky and optimistic woman with a huge smile and a wonderful outlook on life. When we asked her the secret to her happiness, she told us: “Dancing and making love.”

 

Joel’s Story

Joel is 24 and living in one of the largest refugee camps in Northern Uganda.

After surviving polio as a child, Joel lost the ability to walk and did not have access to a wheelchair. Even without a mobility aid, Joel was not without hope. He would crawl every day to school and then university, determined to fulfil his dream of becoming a doctor. He only had two years of studying remaining when the war in South Sudan reached his village and he was forced to flee his home, carried on his family’s back.

Though he is unable to complete his education whilst living in a refugee camp, Joel hasn’t given up! Instead he aims to participate in the 2020 Paralympic Games in Tokyo. Regardless of the difficulties he faces as a disabled man living in a refugee camp, Joel remains optimistic and motivated, training every day in order to bring him one step closer to his goal.

A tenacious, bright, strong-willed young man, Joel does not see limits when it comes to his disability. Walkabout feel privileged to have been able to give him a tricycle that will truly transform his life.

Emmanuel’s Story

Emmanuel is an adorable 12 year old with an incredible smile. He was born with spina bifida and hydrocephalus, which has meant that he has never been able to walk. When his father found out about Emmanuel’s disability when he was just 6 months old, he abandoned his family, leaving Emmanuel’s single mother alone and unable to afford to look after her son. His uncle, who already had 5 children of his own, took Emmanuel in and raised him as his own child.

Because he’s never before had a wheelchair, Emmanuel is often left at home alone while his cousins go out to school or to play with other children. He was so excited about his new chair that he had spent the past few weeks telling everyone in the village about it – and that he’d finally be able to join his cousins at the local school. A real charmer, he clapped our team for every adjustment we did on his chair – and didn’t stop beaming throughout!

Sierra Leone 2018

Sierra Leone is a beautiful, green and mountainous country and yet considered one of the poorest in the world. It has suffered through a long, dark history of a 10 year civil war, followed by an Ebola epidemic, leaving the country in a stage of extreme poverty, but things are slowly changing for the better.

In September 2018, Walkabout returned to Sierra Leone to distribute 58 wheelchairs in the capital city of Freetown. After our visit in 2017, which highlighted the huge need for wheelchairs throughout the country, we decided to partner with a local wheelchair workshop to coordinate regular small distributions and meet the ongoing need.

Young Volunteers in Kenya

In July 2018, the Walkabout Team visited our Wheelchair Assembly and Daycare Centre in Nanyuki, Kenya, accompanied by four very special, young volunteers: Ines, Massimo, Giovanni and Greg. Driven by their energy and motivation, we distributed 60 life-changing paediatric wheelchairs.

The young team also dedicated 2 days to painting the classroom walls in our Daycare Centre, where we provide rehabilitation for children with mobility disabilities. Our team added some favourite cartoon characters, showing exceptional artistic skill and creating a fun and interactive space. The kids were very curious about the whole process and the biggest challenge was to make sure that none of them snuck in, leaving their hand prints on the walls!

We are so proud and grateful to our special volunteers for their hard work and commitment to our cause.

Haiti 2018

In June 2018, we headed to Haiti to distribute 163 paediatric wheelchairs. Haiti is one of the poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere, and has recently experienced massive political and social upheaval, with riots and violence leaving the country in distress. It is home to some of the world’s most underprivileged children.

We visited the capital, Port-au-Prince, and the biggest city in the north, Cap Haitien, where we worked with multiple partners including BSEIPH, Partners in Health, and Hope Health Action, to provide chairs for children in desperate need. Our team encountered a number of very complex cases of disabled kids with severe deformities, as a result of spending their whole lives without a wheelchair. That said, the fortnight was filled with smiles and was a great success, with this quote from one of our local partners particularly sticking in our minds:

“Today’s experience was so amazing for all of us. The parents talked about it the whole way home. They felt welcomed and they saw their kids were valued by all of you. A lot of these chairs are true game changers for the kids.”

 

Selina’s story

Selina is the youngest of 7 children. She was displaced from her home in South Sudan two years ago; her loving parents travelled for three days, her mother carrying her on her back, to get to safety at the Ugandan border. Born with cerebral palsy, Selina has never been able to walk, therefore relying on her older siblings to carry her to school. As she grew, she became too heavy for her sisters to bear her weight on the three hour walk, so they would often leave her on the side of the road and only pick her up on their way back home. Now, thanks to her first ever wheelchair, Selina will be able to return to school, and she’ll be able to play with her siblings rather than being left inside alone. For Selina, her wheelchair means the opportunity to have a childhood – something that every little girl deserves.

Richard’s story

Richard arrived at our distribution dragging himself along the dirt floor with the help of a rice bag underneath him. He had suffered a serious hip injury a few years before, dislocating it and leaving his right leg extremely difficult to move. Without the help of any medical attention or physiotherapy, his condition worsened and rendered him immobile and unable to stand, let alone walk. He has never had access to a wheelchair.

Richard has lived in Palorinya refugee camp in Moyo, Uganda, since he had to flee his home in South Sudan when the war broke out. He was overjoyed with his first ever wheelchair, which means that he will be able to regain the dignity that he has lacked for so long.

Jida and Maria’s story

In March 2017, best friends Maria Ricart Karaouni and Jida Khazaal approached Walkabout with a huge goal: to raise enough money for an entire container of wheelchairs for their home country, Guinea.

One huge tennis tournament, one donated birthday, and many generous friends, family members and colleagues later, Jida and Maria had achieved their goal. So in October 2017 – just six months after the fundraising began – Team Walkabout headed to Guinea for the first time ever to distribute 175 life-changing wheelchairs.

Guinea is one of the poorest countries in the world, with an estimated 55% of inhabitants living below the poverty line. There is little provision for, and huge stigma surrounding, people with disabilities, and many of the people we met had spent their whole lives crawling on the floor, often wearing flip-flops on their hands, to get around.

We are incredibly grateful to Jida, Maria, and all the kind donors who made it possible to change the lives of 175 people in desperate need. If you’re inspired by their story and would like to fundraise to single-handedly transform lives, get involved today!

Kevin’s story

Kevin is 5 years old and lives with his mother Jane and younger brother in Nanyuki. He has cerebral palsy, which has meant that he has never been able to walk. Before he started attending the Walkabout Daycare & Support Centre, Kevin spent most of his time at home, not able to socialise with other children his age. A single mother, Jane was also forced to stay at home with Kevin, unable to go out to run the business that used to provide vital income for the family. Kevin joined our centre in 2016, and thanks to the regular therapy he has received so far, he has learnt to walk with a rollator and stand without support. Jane says that he loves coming and interacting with the other children – so much so that sometimes he refuses to have breakfast in the morning because he’s worried about being late!

Arielle’s story

 

Walkabout Ambassador Arielle Rausin, a 21-year-old Team USA Paralympic athlete from Florida, joined us in Kenya in 2017, after raising enough money for 10 wheelchairs in the 2017 London Marathon. All the children on the distribution loved talking to Arielle about her racing, and she taught them how to push and transfer into their new chairs. For many of the recipients, and for their parents, meeting Arielle demonstrated first-hand all the possibilities that are available with the mobility of a wheelchair. And there really is no better way to learn how to use your first ever wheelchair than practicing with a world-class athlete!

Joseph’s Story

Joseph is 6 years old and lives with his father Samuel, mother Julia, and baby sister Eunice. Samuel is a self-trained plumber, but the work is temporary and he is often without a job. Since Julia is forced to spend all day at home looking after Joseph and Eunice, she is unable to work, and as a result the entire family must survive on less than $2 a day. All four of them live in a tiny single room in one of the sprawling slums of Nanyuki, Kenya.

Joseph suffered from pneumonia when he was just four months old, and again a year later. As a result, he has been unable to walk and has little strength in his hands. Because of this, he has not joined a mainstream school like most children his age, in spite of his clear intelligence.

Since Joseph joined the Walkabout Daycare and Support Centre, he has made incredible progress. He loves being around other children, and now that he has been given the opportunity to learn, he is excelling in his education. The staff at our centre are confident that he will soon be able to join a mainstream school.

Julia will now have time for a job and hopes to start a small business selling vegetables and charcoal. This will give the family a crucial second wage to live on, which will make a real difference, giving both Joseph and Eunice a brighter future.