Active Events Stories
Active Events

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’.

Shifan’s Story

Seven-year-old Shifan was left paralysed when she was struck by cerebral malaria as a small child. Her mother carried her everywhere until she became too heavy and had no choice but to leave Shifan at home while she went to work. In 2015, Walkabout gave Shifan her very first ToughRider wheelchair. Having a wheelchair means Shifan can now go to school, play, learn, and make friends. The happiest of students, Shifan is the pride and joy of her class. This wheelchair has given her freedom, independence and access to education.

Charity’s story

Charity Nana (yes, her first name is Charity!) experienced a lifetime of isolation and continually struggled to gain acceptance in her community. Since receiving one of our ToughRider wheelchairs in 2014, she has devoted her life to supporting the disabled. She visits parents and guardians of children with disabilities, bringing practical help, encouragement and fresh hope to those who are so often ignored.

Leon’s story

When the earthquake hit Haiti in 2010, Leon Gaisli lost everything. His home was flattened, his wife and all eight of his children were killed and when he was pulled from the rubble, he was paralysed from the waist down. For Leon, his RoughRider wheelchair represented a means to regain his physical strength and sense of purpose in life. Two years later, not even Leon could have imagined where that chair would take him. In 2012, he became just one of three Haitians ever to represent his nation at the London Paralympics.