Ghana 2009 - Day 3
Today we headed to Teshie for another distribution. We were due to be based outdoors but fortunately we were offered some shelter so we didn’t all end up with heat stroke! It was another busy day, seeing a variety of people in need of wheelchairs or walking aids. The village chiefs turned up and were there most of the day to keep an eye on things. We also seemed to acquire an audience of children, which made things even more interesting!
Mid-afternoon I was asked to go on a home visit with one of the technicians, Phil, to see a man in a village nearby who was in need of a wheelchair. By this time in the day, the only adult wheelchair we had left was missing footplates and we were unsure whether it would even be the right size for him. We took as many accessories and tools as we had with us and headed out with an interpreter to see him. The only information we had was that he was thought to be paralysed from the waist down, and we weren’t even sure if this information was accurate!
We had a fair walk to the man’s house, through tiny streets and across many open sewers. We were struck by seeing the extreme poverty the man was living in. The man’s ’house’ was a small brick-built hut, measuring no more than three by three metres. He seemed to have no furniture or possessions other than a blanket and one or two items of clothes — it was basically just a small empty room. There was no electricity or running water, and it was very stuffy and dark inside. We got him outside so we were able to assess his needs in the daylight. Although we could not be certain, from his descriptions and presentation it appeared that he may have contracted polio as a child, which had resulted in his inability to walk. He had some strength in his legs, but this was very minimal, and nowhere near enough to stand.
Despite the lack of footplates available to us, we managed to make some with the help of an extended back rest, lots of tape and cable ties. We tried bolting it on but one drill wasn’t strong enough to get through the metal and the battery on the other drill ran out! Still, we managed to get the footrests secured adequately, and 38 year old Laryea seemed very happy with his new wheelchair. It had been a challenge trying to get things right, in sweltering heat with no shade, but it was well worth it to see the smile on his face. I think for me, it definitely has to be one of the highlights of my overall trip.
Following this, we headed back to the distribution site to meet the others who were just finishing up. We then all clambered into the minibus and headed back to the hotel, with a short 20 minute stop at the beach. It was liberating to watch the beautiful sunset over the beach after what has been a very busy, challenging and yet deeply humbling day.
Ghana 2009 - Day 2
Today, we carried out our first wheelchair distribution locally in Tema. We arrived at our destination around 9:00am, where there were already several people waiting for us and a sense of anticipation in the air. We set up our base in the grounds of a local Anglican church; our workstations ended up being quite squashed together as there was limited shade available and we were all feeling the heat! The therapists who were new to the team, including myself, shadowed a more experienced team member for the first assessment, in order to get an idea of the process. After this, we quickly got to work carrying out our own assessments, with the much appreciated help of our interpreters. The 'techies' also quickly got to grips with things. In fact, we were all working extremely well together as a team, considering we were almost strangers when we met at Heathrow airport only two days before!
It was interesting to get our first glimpse of the impact of disability in a third-world country. Many of the 42 patients we saw during the day were forced to crawl about on their hands and knees, often only with flip flops to protect their hands. They were lacking the basic dignity and independence we so often take for granted. Several of them had developed sores from so much time spent crawling over all the rough terrain. Many of them had also developed quite severe contractures, something you would seldom experience to the same degree in England, as preventative measures would have been put in place much earlier down the line. It was amazing that through the small gesture of giving people a free wheelchair, it was able to make such a big difference in their lives.
Following receiving their wheelchair or other mobility aid, each individual was given the opportunity to hear the Gospel and be prayed with. I was surprised and pleased to see how keen people were to accept this opportunity – not a single one of the people I saw opted not to receive prayer. They seem to count it such a blessing! One woman sat for ages after receiving her free Bible, just reading it, unable to put it down. It was great to see her for the first time in her life having the opportunity to fully immerse herself in God’s word. It made me think how we are so blessed in England to be able to afford our own copy of the Bible and yet, so often we take it for granted and it just spends far too much time sat on the shelf.
Following the wheelchair distribution we grabbed a late lunch, before visiting the Shekinah Children's Home in Tema, which is home to 28 children. We were welcomed with smiles and laughter! It was great to meet the children and see all the love and support the staff at the home provide. All the children wanted to show us around and point out which bunk bed was theirs - they seemed so excited to have visitors. The children also loved having their photographs taken and viewing the photos back – in fact, you could say it made them a little hyperactive! However, despite the smiles on most of the children’s faces, I couldn’t get over the sadness on the face of one of the young girls, who just sat quietly on Glenda’s lap for the whole of our time there. I’m not sure she ever spoke – you couldn’t help but wonder what was going through her mind. Another thing that struck me was how hot and stuffy it was in all the rooms, particularly the middle room which had no windows – it was like a sauna. Apparently they’ve been saving up for a fan in the middle room, and some money donated was able to help them towards this.
Ghana 2009 by Lucy Wood
After arriving late last night, today was spent mainly sorting through all the wheelchairs and mobility aids. They were already colour-coded into sizes. However, we needed to divide them up into the different distribution days. Three of the therapists spent some time looking through all the application forms already received (at least 150 of them!). From this, we were able (in theory!) to gauge approximately which size wheelchairs we were likely to need more of each day, and roughly how many crutches/walking frames we should take to each distribution. It wasn’t that easy in practice though, particularly as many of the application forms provided little information other than “walking disability”! While we were doing the sorting, the other team members worked hard fixing any wheelchairs that had been damaged during shipping, and re-attaching parts that had gone astray such as footrests etc.
Once we had checked all the wheelchairs and decided which we were taking to each distribution, these were labelled up and arranged in storage in the correct order. In total, there were just under 200 wheelchairs, 100 pairs of crutches and several walking frames. It felt a particularly long and exhausting day, with all of us taking a while to adjust to the heat and humidity. However, it was very satisfying when all the equipment was finally sorted ready for the distributions ahead.
We received the following positive feedback from our training session on including disabled children at Adeyfield Free Church:
"Saturday's Disability Course was brilliant... It was very professionally presented without being intimidating, you might say 'user-friendly'!"
"It was ALL totally of interest and relevance"
"The only improvement would be to maintain the current high standard – thank you SO much!"
"Important ‘first’ session and so much more to look forward to!"
On October 28th a Wheels for the World team of 11 set off for Ghana, to work with the Light Outreach, distributing wheelchairs and other mobility aids along with Bibles. The team also plan to help in feeding and ministering to homeless people during the evenings.
"Being on a Wheels team is an amazing chance to make a real difference, meet amazing friends, eat strange foods, swim in algae covered swimming pools, fly in tiny planes, go on long wiggly bus trips but most of all have great fun doing God's work!"
My name is Becky Nightingale and I'm a Christian worshipping at Highfield Church, Southampton and working as a Senior Physio at Southampton Hospital.
I first fell in love with Africa as a student, having travelled to Uganda,and I realised God had bigger plans for me as a physio than just working in the NHS. I started going on Wheels trips in 2005 and have been to Nigeria, Ethiopia and Kenya. Wheels has enabled me to enjoy my passion for Africa while staying in full time employment in the UK. I have been able to travel with my best friend and husband as a part of several teams and have also made amazing friends whilst on the trips.
For me, arriving in country seeing disabled people crawling in mud around a market and seeing children with huge birth deformities is heart-breaking. I truly don’t believe that the huge gap in health care, sanitation and education is how God intended the world to be. However working with Wheels gives me the opportunity to use my skills for God to vastly improve peoples’ lives and to use the wheelchairs as a tool to talk to people about God’s love for them. It is amazing to see a child walk for the first time or have the freedom of movement by sitting in a new wheelchair.
It is important that all the people we meet as a team realise that they are very special and perfect in God’s eyes. I remember on a trip to Ethiopia I was distressed to meet a very unwell child who we could not help in a practical way. However, through our work as a team we showed that family God’s love which was very important for them and community around them to see.
Mine and my husband experiences with Wheels have made us very much consider doing further work in Africa for longer periods of time, so watch this space...!!
Food for thought...
Through the Roof's Development Manager, Tim Wood, along with long-term TTR trainer, Norma, ran a session on Autism for New Malden URC. Here's some of the feedback:
"The whole event was enlightening, informative, clear and helpful."
"Your course has been very thought provoking and useful. We have gone away with very helpful ideas."
"I enjoyed it and it gave me lots of food for thought."
Wheels to Uganda
Through the Roof will be sending a Wheels for the World wheelchair distribution team to Uganda in June 2010. This will be our first time in Uganda, partnering with Non Government Organisation RILD (Response Initiative for Learning Disabilities).
The team used the the EECMY School for the Deaf in Nekemte as their base for the wheelchair distribution. In total about 90 people were assessed, provided with wheelchairs or other equipment, given a Bible and prayed with.
A highlight was talking with and giving Bibles to some Muslims, including an Imam, who were very open because of the love they had experienced from the team.
Kimilili, Kenya 2009
Returning to Kimilili, one of the Wheels team's regular distribution centres, the seven strong Wheels for the World team were encouraged as they saw changes which had greatly contributed to the integration of disabled people into the community.
Just one example was a young girl who was unable to walk due to cerebral malaria. Her mother had been carrying her to school but was no longer able to do so. Now she has a wheelchair, the girl will be able to go to school and to travel around the village.