Through Fresh Eyes
From my first steps on African soil my senses were bombarded with new sights and smells but you quickly notice there is a slower pace of people, writes new Wheels team member Graham Watts.
It’s my first time in Africa and my first experience as part of a charity organisation so whilst I was full of excitement, part of me was wondering how I would deal with what was required of me over the next 10 days.
From the start I was made very welcome by the rest of my team and each one has taken the time to offer help and advice, drawing on many years of involvement on similar trips.
The first day of distribution quickly gave me an insight to my role as a technician and after setting up an area for repair/adjustment I started by making good a small number of wheelchairs that weren’t quite ready or fit for use. This also gave me the chance to familiarise myself with the different parts of a wheelchair.
Before long I was put to the test by the therapists, who had begun to process the disabled people that had turned up. They had completed the hardest task of understanding the disability and then deciding on the best mobility equipment needed. My challenge as the technician was to make the necessary adjustments to give each person the best possible aid.
Many of the adjustments were simple ‘quick fixes’ involving either raising/lowering foot plates or adding a lap belt. On occasion the person’s disability required a little more thought due to the complexity of their disability and a number of foam shapes (especially cut) were added to give support to either a head or a limb.
From the first day of distribution I was humbled by the open welcome we all received from both the disabled people and also the family members who had brought them along.
I will leave Africa with the everlasting impression of its people and the warm welcome they gave to us all. I will also go home with the knowledge that the small part I played has gone some way to help and improve the quality of life of the people we help.
Volunteer therapist, Gunn, writes:
As always, I am touched by some of children I’ve seen and their tragic situations which, in many cases, could have been improved/avoided had they lived in the West. I am touched, too, by the gratitude of parents/carers when we are able to provide something and feel a great sense of thankfulness to God that I have been able to help and work through a difficult challenge.
I think, especially, of the little girl (aged 2) with hydrocephalus I saw yesterday and the challenge of finding a way to support her head and make life a little easier for her mother. Also of the three people today who arrived crawling and the dignity for them when they sat up in their wheelchairs and could get themselves around independently. Finally, of the elderly disabled people who sometimes have to be carried around - how much nicer and more dignified for them to be pushed in a chair in their older years.
Team leader, Nigel adds "It has been a good place from which to run the distribution. There have been a couple of people wanting to accept Jesus today, and a Muslim man was keen to have the Luganda Bible.
Dear TTR Office...
International Missions Manager, Nigel, writes from Uganda:
What a challenge to get the internet! Anyhow we are doing well. We have been rather fully programmed by our lovely hosts. They really are brilliant and a pleasure to work with. Sunday was good, but very full being out and about all day until late in the evening. That has made us rather tired and it was telling a bit today on energy levels. It didn't help being so hot today. I am keen that team members ease up a little, but it is difficult when you are on site with a queue of disabled people waiting.
Today we had a brief visit from the Mayor of Mukono and he made a little speech to thank everyone involved. The local TV channel had a reporter at site in the morning, and he did a few interviews and filmed with his camcorder.
We are getting to know the hotel staff. It is a good Christian base and is restful in the main, apart from some exuberant praise and preaching sessions by other guest groups!
On Sunday the church services were excellent with both Eileen and myself preaching. I was at Pastor Joseph's church in Saalem - a community around a tea plantation out in the rural areas. Very beautiful, an excellent church coupled with a school and orphanage set up by Joseph. He has been the provider of our transport and is part of the RILD team.
I must leave it there for the moment - please pray that we might find good rest and refreshment.
The team is tired. But happy.
"Exciting and Humbling..."
Wheels Uganda trip team member, Linda Head, has sent us a great summary of what's been going on so far:
Y’ello from Uganda at the (very late) end of day two! Team travel – safe, straightforward and uneventful. Praise the Lord! For those of us returning to Africa it’s at once exciting and humbling. For our “techie”, Graham, it was a whole new experience of sights, sounds, smells tinged with a fair bit of uncertainty – what had he let himself in for? (Perhaps he should tell you another day!)
As well as the transatlantic travel, yesterday took in a good deal of shopping – bibles (two shops), a foam retailer, and a supermarket sweep. The therapist half of the team meanwhile did a recce of the distribution sight – a clinic in the Mukono suburb of Kampala.
Today we began in earnest and what looked like chaos on arrival soon metamorphosed into a productive and efficient working area as we sorted, shifted and ordered everything. All of this took place with the wonderful help of local charity RILD (Response Initiative for Learning Disabilities), who we found to be well prepared, organised, helpful, keen, diligent and very available. Flexibility and thinking on your feet are key to Wheels trips and RILD offered a brilliant and very simple innovation – a piece of string! This yellow string, tied across the huge awning we worked under, kept everything and everyone in their correct place. Sometimes old technology is what’s needed (especially true given the difficulties with internet connection – another story!)
We saw 30 people today and I was newly struck by how life-transforming the work of Wheels is. Not just giving people mobility aids but how these items also impact and improve the lives of recipient’s families. By working alongside local charities like RILD, we are able to help people access local help for other areas of their lives and the therapists are able to serve the families by offering advice, encouragement and education during the fitting process.
Of all the clients seen today, it was a pair of twins who touched our hearts the most. The girls, aged 8, had ‘fallen sick’ in their early years – one at two and a half and the other at four and a half. Their ‘sickness’ had caused severe deformity to their limbs. They arrived carried by their father and elder teenage brother - the latter had given up three years of his education to help care for his sisters. We were delighted to give them a special buggy each.
"Absolutely fabulous... Can we come back next year please?"
This was a comment from one of the parents at our short break holiday for families with children on the autism spectrum.
The team of volunteer helpers worked tirelessly to provide a full programme of activities for the children, their siblings and parents. This included visits to Tilgate Park and a leisure pool, a parachute Bible story, discussion groups for parents, lots of craft activities, praise parties and a brilliant puppet show!
Unusually, the weather wasn't so kind to us this year but the feedback has still been extremely positive. If you have a child on the autism spectrum and would like to express an interest in next year's holiday, please email Margaret at the office and she'll be able to tell you more about it.
A huge thank you to all those involved in planning, organising, supporting, helping, praying...