Active Events Stories
Active Events

Dharmender’s story

Dharmender is 11 years old and comes from a very poor family who live in a rural village outside Varanasi. When he joined our centre last year, he was barely able to sit up without support – let alone walk – and spent all his time sitting or lying inside his house. Thanks to the daily physiotherapy he receives at the centre, he has learnt how to walk independently with a rollator, and can even take a number of steps completely unassisted.

In spite of his new found mobility, outreach staff from the centre noticed that Dharmender was still struggling to move around his house or go to the toilet independently because the ground inside and outside the house was made of mud and very bumpy, while the family’s only toilet was the shared toilet in the field outside their house. To solve this issue, we concreted the floor of the house, added a ramp and railing outside, and built a toilet inside. This means that Dharmender can now move around and perform all of his daily living activities independently. He clearly loves being able to move by himself – and soon he will even be able to walk to the bus stop on his own!

Aakash’s story

Aakash is 8 years old and is a sweet, intelligent boy with an adorable smile. When Aakash’s mother was pregnant with him, she was unwell, but couldn’t afford to go to the doctor. Aakash was born with cerebral palsy, and was never able to walk. Nor did he ever go to school – in spite of his intellectual ability – and spent most of his time inside his house, a one room hut in a village outside Varanasi. When we first met Aakash, we gave him a wheelchair and enrolled him at our centre, ensuring that he received regular therapy and education. We also sent our community outreach team to travel to his house and modify it by adding a ramp, railing and concrete throughout. These changes made a huge difference to Aakash’s life. Now that his house no longer has steps or an uneven, muddy floor, he can move around it in his wheelchair, and will no longer have to sit in the mud during monsoon season. What’s more, thanks to the physiotherapy he receives at the centre daily, he is learning to walk, and the therapists at the centre are confident that he will soon be able to do so independently. He practices his walking outside his house holding on to the newly installed railing – with a look of much concentration and a big smile on his face! Perhaps most exciting of all is that, after years of being unable to go to school, Aakash is now able to get an education. He has learned to read and write (both in Hindi and English), knows his times tables, and loves to paint. He is incredibly studious and determined, and enjoys helping other students with their work. Now that he’s been able to catch up on all the years that he’s missed, he is attending a mainstream school every day – and receiving the education that he, and every other child, no matter their circumstances, deserves.

Prakash’s story

In June 2017, we distributed 136 chairs in Bangalore and Varanasi, in some cases reaching recipients from extremely remote villages. It was here that we met Prakash, a 14 year old boy whose last wheelchair broke four years ago. This was the first time he had left his house since. Prakash was initially extremely shy – understandable for someone who has been inside one room for the past four years. But little by little, he began to relax, telling us how excited he was to finally be able to move around his village again and regain the independence that he deserves.

Ram Krishna’s story

Ram Krishna is from Nepal, and was working for a hydropower company when he was electrocuted while climbing an electricity pole 4 years ago. He and his then-girlfriend, Sarita, got married after his accident because “they realised how much they needed each other”. Our translator tells me this is very rare in Nepal – normally people leave their partners when they are injured, worried that they will have to care for them. Being a young person and dealing with a spinal cord injury must be incredibly difficult, but Sarita and Ram Krishna are so happy and clearly in love that, when you’re around them, it’s easy to forget the hardship they’ve been through.

Siddanth’s story

Siddanth is 12 years old, and lives in Nepal. He was injured in a road traffic accident when he was just 4. Because he had no wheelchair, his mother, unaware of the damage that it would do, kept him inside all the time – his father had left and she couldn’t afford to take him to school. When community outreach officers from our partner SIRC found him, he had multiple serious pressure sores, because he had been spending all his time lying in one room.

He was brought to the centre, where he received rehabilitation and treatment for his sores, and staff have made sure that he and his mother are staying in a hostel nearby so that he can attend school. Siddanth was clearly very shy when he arrived at the distribution (which is unsurprising, given that he has spent most of his life in just one room with his mother and has rarely interacted with others), but when he was asked to help put together one of the wheelchairs, he relaxed and enjoyed helping out. He especially loved the Coke and biscuit that he received as a reward!

Sofia’s story

Sofia had just given birth to her son Quima when we first met her back in 2014. She has been paralysed since she contracted polio at a young age.

Sofia lives with Quima, her parents, 10 siblings, and 12 nieces and nephews. The family used to own a large coffee plantation and lived comfortably, but when the crops were hit by a disease, they were left with nothing. Sofia’s parents must now support the entire household on very little, growing their own food and selling the small amount they don’t consume.

When Sofia received her Walkabout wheelchair in 2014, it gave her hope – both for herself and for her son, who was just weeks old at the time. Now that we’ve given her a trike, this hope has been amplified; she will be able to help her parents on their farm, as well as go further afield to search for other work and provide for Quima.

Mariam’s story

Mariam lives in Uganda. She is 21 years old, and a single mother with a 9 month old baby boy. She contracted cerebral malaria at the age of 1, and has been unable to walk since. She has never before had access to a wheelchair.

In spite of spending her entire life on the ground, Mariam clearly gets on with life as best she can. She shares a small patch of land with her mother, which they farm together to grow the food they live on. She even dragged herself to school every day until she was 11, determined to get an education. When we met her, she had travelled all the way to the distribution alone, taking a boat and then a three hour motorbike journey, having fashioned a sling so that she could carry her son on her back.

When we gave Mariam her first ever chair, staying true to her independent and determined character, got into it completely alone, keeping her son strapped to her back the entire time. She was delighted to finally be sitting in an upright position, at the eye level of others, and immediately began sharing her plans to rent a sewing machine and earn some money to support her small family.

Patrick’s Story

At 6 months old, Patrick contracted meningitis. He has been paralysed ever since. Maralal, where he lives, is a small town in a very rural part of Kenya; access to education is limited here and in surrounding regions, and the prevailing attitude towards disability is once of prejudice  and superstition.

When we met Patrick at our distribution, his mother Grace brought him along with his 3-year-old sister Joy. At just 32, Grace manages to feed, clean, carry and care for Patrick, as well as her four other children. This was Patrick’s first ever wheelchair – and despite repeated attempts by his younger sister to fit the wheelchair herself, Patrick was soon seated by somebody slightly more qualified. The constant smile on his face made it impossible to question his feelings about his new chair – and the table tray served immediate purpose as a lunch tray, and soon after as a musical instrument.

Grace’s biggest concern was that Patrick had been unable to attend school like his older siblings have. Despite her repeated attempts to organize for Patrick to be admitted, it has not been possible. There is a primary school in Maralal that admits a few other disabled children, with one stipulation – that they must have a wheelchair. Now that Patrick has his chair, he will be able to start at this school in just 3 weeks. For Grace, and many other mothers and fathers we meet, giving their children access to education is their primary goal, and the most important aspect of the mobility that a chair provides.

But there is so much more that happens when Patrick, or any child, is given a chair. In this area, the lives of people with disabilities have been restricted to their own homes. There can be no doubt that Patrick’s own horizon has widened now that he has access to education, but also now that he has increased visibility and movement around his rural community – as a laughing, lovely and bright boy –  the local stigma and suspicion surrounding disability must decrease.

Anne & Given’s Story

Anne lives in rural Kenya, and was an unmarried girl of 22 when she gave birth to her first son. There were substantial problems at the birth, and after 5 days in intensive care the doctors told Anne that her son had little chance of surviving. That day she named him ‘God Given’ because, as she puts it, “whatever happened, he was still God’s gift to me, and I loved him”.

Given, as he is now known, is 4 years old and has been diagnosed with cerebral palsy. With Given’s father out of work and unable to contribute financially, in an attempt to support herself and her son, Anne used to walk every day to the centre of town to pick up washing with Given strapped to her back with a scarf. She would then begin the hour walk home with Given in place, and the large bags strapped to her front; the contents needed to be washed, dried and returned within the day before Anne could be paid.

Life was clearly difficult for Anne – the only economic opportunity available to her required substantial physical labour that was tiring in itself, without the added weight of a 4 year old child.

Anne first asked social services for a wheelchair over two years ago, but despite repeated follow up requests and recommendations from local doctors, no wheelchair was forthcoming. In a characteristically resourceful bid to provide Given with the support she had been told he needed, Anne fashioned her own version of a wheelchair at home.

When Anne and Given arrived at the Walkabout distribution day, they were among the first families to receive a wheelchair. Given was initially unsure of himself in the chair, the sensation of being so secure unfamiliar to him (he was used to being strapped into his home made version with a length of rope). Within minutes of adjustments by expert physiotherapists, the chair was fitted to his body shape and size, and he was soon smiling again.

Anne too was absolutely thrilled, and brimming with ideas for the future. The chair is life changing for both mother and son. Anne plans to immediately start her own business selling her ‘Mandas’ cakes at a market stall in the neighbourhood – a huge step up from washing and unthinkable until today. As for Given, he will soon be able to go to the only place his mum has ever wanted him to go – a place that seemed an impossible dream until now – school.

The mothers of children we meet around the world often have a similar story to Anne – they are struggling and alone in giving their child the love, support and care that they know they need. No woman should be forced to make a choice between leaving their child at home or being unable to provide for them – and that’s why a wheelchair is so important; not only for the recipient, but also for the person that cares for them.

Rachel’s story

When we met Rachel in Uganda in 2014, she was crawling over 4 kilometres every day just to get to school. She was born with a congenital birth defect, and spent twelve years on the ground – never at eye level of others, often with cuts on her arms and legs, and always dirty.

We gave Rachel her first wheelchair and it transformed her life. She was no longer force to move around in an undignified, painful way; she could now arrive at school clean and ready to learn. She was able to interact with friends and people in her community while looking at their faces not their legs.

In 2016, we checked on Rachel again and selected her to receive a trike. She simply couldn’t stop beaming. Her wheelchair had brought incredible change to her life, but the tricycle took this one step further – it now only takes her half the time to get to school with a lot less effort and struggle.

Alicia’s story

San Salvador, the capital city of El Salvador, is considered the deadliest city in the Western Hemisphere. Violence between gangs and police kills thousands every year, and often those affected are innocent.

Alicia was just a year old when she was caught in the crossfire between two gangs and shot, leaving her spinal cord injured and paralysed from the waist down. Now 8 years old, Alicia is an incredibly intelligent and independent little girl. When we met her, she was excited to practice her English with us and insisted on getting into her new chair unaided.

Alicia wanted more than anything to go to school. However, she could not; many schools in El Salvador refuse to accept children with disabilities on the basis of a lack of facilities and resources. For a competent and able childlike Alicia, for whom an education could truly open up a world of possibilities, this was something we could not accept.

When we returned to London, we worked with our local partner to ensure that we found a way to get Alicia into school. Thanks to her new functioning wheelchair, we were ecstatic to learn that a school took her and she is now receiving the education that she – and every child, no matter their circumstances – deserves.

Edisa’s story

Edisa is from Uganda. She is 23 and not only has she never had a wheelchair; just 2 weeks before we met her she had never in her life sat up. Edisa arrived at the distribution lying completely flat and bent over, covering two seats on the back seat of a taxi hired to bring her. She was completely stuck in this folded position and, even with the quality of the chairs, equipment and the expert team, we were worried we would be unable to get her in a chair.

After numerous adjustments to the chair and a long assessment and fitting, we managed to get Edisa sitting upright and comfortable. It was heart-warming to see her face as she looked up and around her for the first time, after having spent her entire life on the floor at shoe level. She could not stop her beaming smiles, was uncontrollably excited and kept repeating ‘thank you, thank you very much’.