Northern Uganda hosts one of the world’s biggest refugee populations, with approximately 2 million refugees residing in the region today. Because of the South Sudanese war the country is under extreme pressure, and the need for wheelchairs is at an all time high.
This May, Walkabout returned to Uganda to distribute 320 wheelchairs and 50 trikes together with our incredible partners, World Action Fund and Hope Health Action. These chairs came from our Wheelchair Assembly & Repair Centre in Kenya, where they were built by our local team. So far, our partners have distributed 155 wheelchairs and 31 tricycles, and we look forward to distributing the rest in the coming months!
The need in the region is still overwhelming, and we need your support to help those in dire need. Click below to help us continue changing lives in Uganda.
My name is Julie Williams and I’m the mother of Walkabout’s advocate, Kirk Williams.
Kirk was injured in a mountain biking accident in 2009, breaking his C4-6 vertebrae and injuring his spinal cord. Receiving that phone call and the weeks that followed brought me to my knees. Our family had lived an active lifestyle of swimming, hiking, biking, and adventuring pre-accident. We all had an easy, uncomplicated fun-loving relationship with Kirk. I wasn’t sure if that would ever happen again.
I will be honest, my maternal instincts and gravitational pull to Kirk became my Achilles heel following his injury. It strained me to the breaking point. He needed his space to heal while I felt I needed to be right by his side through everything. After a “come to Jesus” talk with Kirk, I realized the best thing I could do for him was to leave him in Colorado and return home to Virginia. After all, I had to accept I could not make this better. It was out of my control. I was making it worse for both of us. A harsh reality for a mom to face. But face it, I did.
Though there is no cure for someone who has suffered a Spinal Cord Injury yet, rehabilitation centers teach amazing ways for patients to adapt. I am blessed to have a son who took in all the suggestions and was able to build upon them… and then some.
Shortly after leaving the hospital, Kirk began going out for adventures with various adaptive sports organizations. His change in character was evident. Our conversations began shifting to what he was doing, not how he was doing. This was a remarkable improvement for the relationship between us as well.
As time went by, Kirk kept doing more and more. Before long he was doing even more than he did when he was able-bodied! I didn’t see that coming! We started to become creative about family vacations, in a good way. Rather than exchanging Christmas presents, we planned family trips to Cozumel, Belize and Maui, so the guys could SCUBA dive together, while all I needed was a good book, the beaches and quality time with my boys.
Recently, I’ve been finishing a children’s picture book called Bella Joins the Service; a story about Kirk and his amazing service dog, Bella. Bella tells about her dilemma and angst as Kirks’ best friend after he was first injured. She asks the questions, ‘What can I do? What if I jumped on top of him and licked him? Would that make him better?’ We follow her journey as she and her “Kirk” come full circle to live the same life they enjoyed before — just differently. This story, of course, parallels my journey as Kirk’s mom since the accident. Bella and I are the same in our love for our Kirk.
We are both so proud of Kirk, what he has achieved and what he will continue to achieve. As it turns out, we have come full circle and do enjoy the same life we had before… Just differently.
With love and hope,
This Mother’s Day in the UK, make all the moms in your life feel extra special. Give a woman in need the gift of mobility in honour of your mom today!
Walkabout Foundation is thrilled to announce that we are partnering up with Hope Health Action once again! This global strategic partnership will combine our knowledge of global wheelchair distribution services with HHA’s expertise in facilitating sustainable and innovative healthcare in Haiti.
There are an estimated 60 million people in the world who do not have access to a wheelchair because they cannot afford one. In Haiti, people with disabilities are among the most vulnerable, with conditions prohibiting their independence, and access to key services (such as education and healthcare), which prevents them from being a part of the community.
Walkabout Foundation and HHA strongly believe that everyone should have access to the dignity, freedom and independence that mobility brings. Together, we are building a brand new HHA Walkabout Distribution Centre in Haiti, which will provide locals with a regular and sustainable supply of wheelchairs, transforming hundreds of lives every year. The centre will become the single largest wheelchair provider in the country, acting as a regional hub for the Caribbean and Latin America. We are focused on a holistic approach of wheelchair provision and aim to eventually replicate our successful Kenya model.
“We are incredibly excited and humbled to be bringing the Haiti project to life alongside our long-standing partner, Hope Health Action, who are experts in the field of mobility disability and care needs in Haiti” says our co-founder, Carolina Gonzalez-Bunster. “We could not ask for a better partner, who have been working in Haiti for over 14 years and we strongly believe that together, we will make a sustainable impact in a country so close to our hearts and history.”
The team at HHA share Walkabout’s enthusiasm about this exciting new project. “Hope Health Action is delighted to be partnering with Walkabout Foundation on this exciting new project that will transform the lives of thousands of people across Haiti in the coming years” says Carywn Hill, CEO and co-founder of HHA. “This will be the country’s first national wheelchair distribution facility that will tackle a critical national need and transform rehabilitation efforts across Haiti.”
“Opening this new wheelchair distribution centre is a major step forward in fulfilling our joint dream to ensure everyone in Haiti who needs a wheelchair, can have access to one. There are few greater privileges in our work than to see the humbling transformation of someone who arrives at our hospital, crawling in the dust and dirt having never had a wheelchair, but later leaving; proud, independent and mobile with their life-transforming wheelchair.”
Together, we will hire local wheelchair riders to assemble and distribute a minimum of 900 wheelchairs every year, thereby investing in local expertise and creating lasting, sustainable change across the country! We can’t wait to share the developments of the project in the months and years to come!
They say a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. For our family, this step was discovering how difficult life can be for people with mobility disabilities, after Luis was left paralysed in a tragic car accident at the age of just 18. So, in 2009, my brother and I turned our pain into passion and launched Walkabout Foundation with an 870 kilometer walk along the Camino de Santiago de Compostela.
Since then, we have impacted the lives of over 46,000 people through the distribution of over 16,800 wheelchairs in 25 countries, opened 2 rehabilitation centres for children in desperate need in India and Kenya, opened a Wheelchair Assembly and Repair Centre in Kenya, with plans to open another in Haiti this year, while funding over $1.6 million in pioneering medical research to find a cure for paralysis. Today, we are both an intrinsic part of the organisation’s daily operations, fundraising and programmes – and we lead our team with a simple philosophy – ‘let’s make the world a better place, one person, one wheelchair at a time’.
Start-ups are rarely the safest choice. Often, they are crazy leaps of faith based on an idea that you believe in with all your heart. Our leap of faith in 2009 has led to such positive change, not only for us, but for thousands of people around the world that we help every year. Although our 10-year journey has been a beautiful one, it hasn’t always been easy. Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) and mobility disabilities can leave those suffering from terrible invisible scars such as loneliness, depression, and isolation to name a few. A person with spinal cord injury obviously has sustained an injury to their body, but what can be equally or even more debilitating than the physical injury is what it does to your psyche.
In Luis’ case, he became extremely isolated and did not want anyone to see him in that state. For the past 9 years, my brother has been suffering from severe abdominal pain that has spread to other parts of his body and has taken a serious toll on his mental health too. When asked how he powered through in times of crisis, Luis said, “I try and look on the bright side as often as I can, regardless of how difficult that may be and one thing this experience has given me, if there ever is to be a silver lining to it, is a considerably greater amount of empathy for all those going through hardships, of all kinds”.
That is why, this Thursday 4th of February, on Time to Talk Day, we feel it is our duty to share our story and how starting Walkabout has kept us level-headed over the years. What we have found helps us is to reach out and help others. There is such strength, beauty and motivation in knowing that the work you do every day is bigger than just you. Providing people in desperate need with wheelchairs is about more than just mobility, it’s about improving their quality of life, giving them true independence and bettering their chances at living a happy life.
We all suffer in one way or another due to this pandemic, and we need to do our best to support each other, because you never know what someone is going through. After what has been an incredibly tough year with all the lockdowns and shutdowns, this Time to Talk Day, we would like to inspire others to rise up and talk about their mental health too – overcome the taboos, find inspiration and feel a part of a community. We want to shout from the rooftops that ‘no one is alone’!
Hello fellow Walkabout friends,
I’d like to take a quick minute here to introduce myself. I’m Kirk Williams, a quadriplegic adventure photographer, world traveler, and adaptive vanlifer. I just returned from an incredible trip around Patagonia in my wheelchair accessible campervan where I have been teaching others about adaptive vanlife and raising awareness about all of those in our world who don’t have access to the most fundamentals of freedoms: mobility.
I’ve been very fortunate since breaking my neck in 2009 to have the support system I do. Living in Colorado, I have access to the beautiful outdoors that I love so much and am constantly trying to figure out better ways to get out and experience nature again. I’ve been lucky to try many different adaptive sports from skiing to wheelchair rugby and have slowly returned to doing something I love the most, travel.
Travel in a wheelchair can be humbling. It often times takes you out of your comfort zone and reminds you how different things operate in different parts of the world. Travel has taught me so many things that I could never learn in books, only from experience. Travel reminded me of just how many people in the world have mobility impairments and absolutely no way to acquire the medical equipment they need. Travel showed my that just by shear luck alone, I’m living in a country that has the infrastructure in place to take care of me as a disabled citizen. Travel brought me to finding, and now partnering with Walkabout Foundation.
Did you know that there are an estimated 100 million people in the world who are in need of a wheelchair, and 65 million of those can’t afford one!? Can you imagine!? I know I can’t.
Because of what I’ve experienced in my travels and hearing statistics like this, I’ve decided to use my privileged travel platform as a way to educate, inspire, and campaign to change others lives along the way. We’ve been given the tools and opportunity to make a difference in someone’s life, it’s time we start doing so.
On September 26th, I’ll be hosting an individualized 5k ‘virtual’ Walkabout here in the USA, to support Walkabout, as their annual flagship event, London Walkabout has been cancelled because of the pandemic.
My goal is to raise $15k that will allow us to send a container full of life changing wheelchairs anywhere they are needed in the world. For about $300 we can buy, build, and supply a wheelchair to someone that will change their life, forever.
A portion of the proceeds will also go towards spinal cord injury research too. It goes without saying how important a spinal cord injury cure could be for people like me but also for the millions of others. Every 60 minutes someone is spinal cord injured in the US, in India it’s every 15! Let’s work to help get them back on their feet again.
Our world is an interesting place these days. Uncertainty lurks around every corner, leaving us confused and questioning like never before. The idea of ‘normal’ seems to change almost daily. What do we do next? How do we move forward?
Let’s all take a break on September 26th and do something for someone else who could really use our help. Let’s walk for those who can’t! This virus will slowly go away and our lives will return to normal. Those who don’t have a wheelchair now, won’t get one later. Not without our help.
If you’d like to take part, simply grab a group of friends and walk an easy, 5k route, in the name of those millions of people who can’t. Then, encourage those same friends to donate, and make a positive change in our world.
Thanks for all your support and if you’re interested in following along, I can be found on Instagram @impact.overland or at
Cheers and thanks again,