Uganda 2017

Northern Uganda is the epicentre of one of the biggest refugee crises in the world. With thousands of people flooding into the country every single day, mainly fleeing conflict in South Sudan, life in the sprawling camps is a constant battle for survival. Just imagine living in one of these camps without mobility.

Thanks to the corporate sponsorship from Euromonitor International, we travelled to Northern Uganda in November 2017. Together with our local partners Hope Health Action and World Action Fund, we distributed 250 wheelchairs and 40 trikes to refugees and host communities.

This is one of the poorest parts of the country, and the additional strain on resources resulting from the refugee crisis meant that almost every person we met had never had a wheelchair before. That said, the atmosphere throughout the two weeks was one of joy and hope, and every distribution was filled with smiles, laughter, and even singing!

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.

Wetherby schooboys join Walkabout in Uganda

In December 2016, Team Walkabout travelled to Uganda, where we distributed 200 wheelchairs and 20 tricycles with our partner Soft Power Health. Izzy, our Programmes Manager, and Isabel, our CEO, were joined by Heather Williams, our star volunteer physiotherapist, and two students, Luca and Manuel, from Wetherby Senior School in London.

Every day the team would return home, after hours of travelling on bumpy roads, exhausted and covered from head to toe in red dust, but feeling incredibly thankful that they could really change the lives of people in need on these trips. In the words of our young Wetherby volunteers: “Above all, the best experience has been seeing, meeting and communicating with the beneficiaries.”

As always, we met some wonderful people, including Paul (pictured), who is 17 years old and an avid Manchester United supported (in spite of Luca and Manuel’s decisive efforts to transform him into a Chelsea fan while he waited for his chair!). Paul has been unable to walk his entire life, and is delighted with his new chair because it means he will be able to continue with his education.

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Meet our Walkabout Heroes

Miriam’s story

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.

Uganda 2016 film

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’.

Uganda 2016

This past June, Walkabout travelled back to Jinja, Uganda for the third time. With our fantastic partner, Soft Power Health Clinic, we have now distributed over 600 wheelchairs in the region and for the first time ever, we brought and distributed 30 tricycles (‘trikes’) alongside 200 wheelchairs. Trikes are exceptionally useful for those people with disabilities who have a need to travel long distances to get to school, work, and other villages.

During our trip, we met many inspirational individuals with both moving and uplifting stories. Today we’d like to share just one with you.

Sofia’s Story

Sofia, 32 years old, contracted polio as a young girl, which left her paralysed from the waist down. She lives with her baby Quima and her parents, who support her, along with her 12 nieces and nephews. The family had a coffee plantation and were financially stable. But since their coffee crops were destroyed by a disease in the soil, feeding the family and sending the children to school has become a constant struggle.

We gave Sofia a trike, and both she and her family were beyond delighted – Sofia will now be able to go out to the plantation and contribute to the family business. She’ll also be able to bring Quima with her and they’ll no longer be housebound. Sofia missed visiting her friends, leaving the house, going to prayers, attending burials (an important aspect of Ugandan life) and being a part of the community. These are all things that she is now able to do, thanks to her new trike.

We are so proud to have been able to give Sofia, her family, and numerous others like her a chance. They now all have their own story to tell.

The happy ending to Sofia’s story (and the numerous other happy endings we were able to bring about on this trip) would simply not have been possible without your generous and unwavering support. We thank you for helping us help others.

Shifan’s story

Uganda 2015 film