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.
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’.
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, 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.
On the 14th of June Walkabout Foundation made its second trip to the Soft Power Health clinic in Jinja, a town in the eastern region of Uganda near the banks of lake Victoria and the River Nile, and surrounding villages. We brought with us another 200 ‘Tough Rider’ and ‘Salama’ wheelchairs, supplied by the Association for the Physically Disabled of Kenya (APDK), as well as an expert team of volunteers and physiotherapists.
Throughout the distribution the team tirelessly devoted their time and expertise to making sure that every wheelchair was fitted according to each person’s challenges and needs. This was a very demanding task, as many of the recipients were children suffering from severe cases of cerebral palsy, malaria, hydrocephalus or polio. Everyone was stunned by the complexity of the disabilities they encountered, but left inspired and deeply moved after providing another 200 people with the chairs they desperately needed, bringing new hope and possibilities for a brighter future.
We’d like extend our special thanks to the team at Soft Power Health clinic, who hosted the project and gathered together numerous physiotherapists who are in scarce supply in Uganda. This means that each recipient received, and will continue to receive, the highest level of care.
We’d also like to thank our volunteers, whose dedication and passion is continuing to make the Walkabout vision a reality, changing hundreds of lives.
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.
Team Walkabout headed to Uganda in March 2014 to distribute 200 wheelchairs alongside Soft Power Health’s Allan Stone Community Clinic in Bujugali near Jinja. Bryony and Stefanie were accompanied by our US Chairman, Kevin Mahaney as well as some fantastic volunteers from both the UK and Uganda.
As well as a full distribution day at the clinic, the team also loaded up a truck full of wheelchairs and visited children homes and made journeys to remote villages and individual houses to fit and donate chairs. Being able to change a person’s life in their own home environment, by demonstrating the correct way to enter the home, go up steps and keep the chair in the best condition was extremely rewarding for the entire extended team. We are proud to have been able to make a difference in the lives of those who could only have wished for the independence and mobility that a chair gave them.
Walkabout would like to thank Soft Power Health, the community clinic staff and volunteers, UK physiotherapist Heather Williams who volunteered her time and knowledge, as well as the local kayaking community who pitched in with some of the heavy lifting. Another successful trip!