Wheelsblog: Uganda (28.10.16)

Wheelsblog: Uganda (28.10.16)

Wheelsblog: Uganda (28.10.16)

Departure from normal, two of our members went out on a home visit to see one lady of 85 who is blind and unable to join in on community life. With a wheelchair we were able to supply, she wheeled out and all her community greeted her.

Back at base, we also saw a 95 year old gentleman with Parkinson's disease and a devoted family. We were able to give him a reclining wheelchair with headrest which he looked very comfortable in.

Another elderly man came in hoping for a wheelchair, but left instead with crutches. While this may have been a disappointment for some, he shouted at the people in the waiting area as he left 'look, I have four legs, soon I will be running!'.

One silver child's walker had stayed in the store although we had tried it with several children, but today its rightful owner came to claim it. It was a little lad who had never walked before, but with a sturdy pair of boots he was soon making tracks.

The masterpiece of the day was a cardboard sitting box custom-built for an 8 year old girl who had cerebral malaria when she was one year old. Several people were involved in shaping the foam and supporting fragile joints. We were also able to demonstrate comfortable and therapeutic positioning for sleeping and gaining head control.

Another late customer was a 31 year old man with athetoid cerebral palsy. He explained that he had become a burden on his family and so they had abandoned him in the hope that he would die. However, instead he moved away from the village and had employed a carer. He recently married and now lives with his wife. A suitable wheelchair was found, and after talking to the pastor, he also gave his life to Jesus.

We finished our penultimate day with just three chairs and about ten pairs of crutches left.

Wheelsblog: Uganda (27.10.16)

Wheelsblog: Uganda (27.10.16)

We were greeted with clear blue skies and relentless sun and were very very grateful for the shaded veranda. The tent had been full on our arrival. One group had started out at 2am and arrived at 5am but to some degree we have gotten used to the waiting as it seems to be cultural.

We were conscious from the outset that we had swindling resources to offer people, in terms of wheelchairs particularly and we had to get creative with cardboard boxes and foam for the children who had sitting balance and potential. We also experimented with a tutorial class for parents with children to give them basic pointers on positioning, stretches and activities to encourage head control. The time invested in streamlining the triage and allocation of our clients paid off in that we were more accurately able to match the talents of the therapists with the needs of the clients.

A heavy rain shower freshened the atmosphere and we finished the day in good heart. Necessity being the mother of invention, we found the creative aspects of the day quite satisfying and trust that most people went away happy and with something to improve their lives.

We met some lovely people during the day. Suné worked with a 90 year old man who had come in hope of a wheelchair but walked away happily with a walking frame. He was fascinated that he could also sit down on it and afterwards enjoyed a very animated discussion with the Pastor. Kathy worked with a young girl who we thought we would be able to find a suitable chair for, but ended up prescribing her a child's walker. We had tried it unsuccessfully with various clients earlier in the week and it was great to see it with such a determined final owner!

Our final client was a six year old boy who Anj had to carry away screaming from the waiting tent, with his faithful granddad following close behind. We learnt later that the only white people he had seen before had been running vaccination clinics and so that's what he thought was happening! Tears soon turned to beautiful smiles as Anj and Philip transformed an adult chair into something that fitted him and enabled him to self propel independently.

As our distribution is drawing to a close, we are praying for a tangible presence of God to be understood by all and for His glory to be seen in the practical and personal.

Wheelsblog: Uganda (26.10.16)

Wheelsblog: Uganda (26.10.16)

Today was our rest day, although few British people would describe spending six hours on a bus as restful! Indeed Helen, who wasn’t feeling 100% in the morning and had chosen to stay behind, looked far more rested and well than the rest of us when we returned from Jinja! However, seeing God’s creativity at what Livingstone thought was the source of the Nile was worth the trip.

Despite being fairly close to the main road from Kampala, the waters of Jinja were incredibly peaceful. A short walk down the hill from where the bus parked brought us amazing views of the river Nile and where it meets Lake Victoria. Both the Wheels and RILD team went on a boat trip to see the springs that source part of the river, and Martin even did some shopping at a very conveniently placed hut on stilts!

We enjoyed seeing the variety of birds and wildlife along the river banks; from tiny kingfishers to huge marabou stalks, there was a lot to see. The pelicans looked like they were smirking at some private joke, a monitor lizard made a swift exit as soon as we came close, and hundreds of cormorants amused us by ducking into the water and then popping up somewhere nearby soon after.

After the boat there was time to shop as we made our way back up the hill. We engaged our haggling skills seriously, although occasionally did remember that we had ended up arguing over about 50p! Those that finished sooner had more time to look and play with the monkeys that live at the top of the hill. Most were very tame and would come close if they thought there might be food involved! A late lunch followed shortly afterwards and then it was back to the bus. The hustle and bustle of Ugandan town life and the variety of crops in the fields never fails to make the journey interesting although we were all ready for bed as soon as we got back to the hotel three hours later!

Secrets of the Heart (Ros' Blog)

Secrets of the Heart (Ros' Blog)

Have you ever had one of those moments when you feel there is no one who really understands all you are going through? Even people who’ve been through similar experiences don’t always understand one another.
I remember when my daughter was born, thirteen weeks prematurely and fighting for her life. Many people sent us notes, messages of sympathy, letters or cards to let us know they were thinking of us. But not one single person sent us a card that said “congratulations”. I was deeply hurt. Yes our baby had problems, and no, we didn’t know how long she would be with us. But for now we had a beautiful new baby girl in our family. Didn’t anyone want to congratulate us?

So some years later, when a friend had a baby with distressing disabilities, I sent a new baby card. I was careful to choose one with sensitive wording, but I made sure it included the word congratulations. I later learned from a mutual friend that the baby’s parents had been very offended by cards that said congratulations, because they didn’t think it was appropriate to congratulate them on such a devastating event. Two people facing a very similar circumstance, but with very different reactions to it.

Similarly, I remember the first time a stranger passed comment on my daughter’s disabilities. She had only just been diagnosed with cerebral palsy, and at fifteen months old she weighed only about thirteen pounds so she looked like a much younger baby. I took her to the park one day, sat her in the baby swing, and because she couldn’t sit unsupported, I used the reins to secure her tightly in the swing with a small cushion tucked behind her, to ensure that she wouldn’t flop around as she swung. I began pushing her, and her three year old sister in the swing next to her, alternating between pushing first one then the other. Safely fastened into the swing, Ellen threw back her head and chuckled with sheer delight as she swung back and forth, the air ruffling her hair while she waved her less paralysed arm in glee. Her sister chuckled back at her from the neighbouring swing. It was one of those precious moments of which family memories are made. And at that moment, a total stranger marched up to me and demanded, “What’s wrong with your little girl?” Strapped securely into the swing in a sitting position, I was unaware that it was so obvious she had a disability, and the question was like a punch to the stomach. To my eyes, though she had problems, there was nothing “wrong” with her.

Some time after, when I shared this story with another parent of a disabled child, she was bemused by my reaction. “I like it when people ask me what’s the matter with him,” she responded. “That way I get to explain it myself, and I’d much rather they hear my version.” I could see her point, but it didn’t take away the deep feeling of hurt and shock from hearing that question for the first time – the first of very, very many times over the coming years.

So no matter how much we may have in common, we can’t see into one another’s hearts, and we can’t necessarily understand how or why someone else is feeling. As the Bible tells us, “Each heart knows its own bitterness, and no one else can share its joy.” (Proverbs 14.10)

At such times it’s a real comfort to know that God understands us through and through. He feels all that we feel in our hearts: “In all their distresses He too was distressed.” (Isaiah 63.9) Jesus experienced all that we experience: “This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for He faced all of the same testings we do.” (Hebrews 4.19) He also knows what it is to look for comforters and sympathy yet draw a complete blank (Psalm 69.20).

It once struck me, when Ellen was going through a traumatic operation which saved her life but left a lifelong scar on her psyche, that no parent would volunteer to watch their child go through something so dreadful. And yet God loved us so much that He was prepared to endure even the sight of His Son tortured to death in order to restore us to His family and secure our eternal safety and joy. As a result He has a unique insight into our sufferings and joys, into the things that our heart knows which nobody else sees. There is nothing about which we can’t turn to Him for comfort because He knows exactly what we are going through. I may have quoted them in this blog before, I can’t remember, but I love these words from the 17th century pastor Samuel Rutherford:
“I shall believe for my part that He mindeth to distil heaven out of this loss, and all others the like; for wisdom devised it, and love laid it on, and Christ owneth it as His own, and putteth your shoulder beneath only a piece of it.”

Wheelsblog: Uganda (25.10.16)

Wheelsblog: Uganda (25.10.16)

Day 3 started a bit later than anticipated as one of the team had to embrace the African experience of trying to “quickly” purchase a sim card to make contact with his family in Uganda. The rest of us enjoyed seeing the hustle and bustle as the town of Mbale came alive. You wouldn’t believe how much can be fitted on a small 125 cc motorbike, including a corrugated iron roof!

As we drive past the fields on the way to the distribution site we have a fleeting insight into the lifestyle of the locals as we see the ladies working hard in the fields with their children not far from sight, the young ones taking care of the babies. It’s hard to believe that many of the disabled ladies we have met, too, work in the fields despite not being able to stand or walk, purely getting around on their hands and knees.

With a day’s experience behind us we set up quickly and started to see those that had already arrived. It was building up to be a particularly hot day as we scrambled for shade. The techies had also moved to join us on the veranda where they set up their new “workshop” for the day. Their skills were pushed far and wide as they created and adapted without electricity. There was a notable moment where the heat of the sun had been directly falling on, and heating up, a piece of plastic that could then be re-shaped without the use of the heat gun!

Today saw many highs and lows. We saw a total of 53 people of whom 26 were children. Some of the children presented with disabilities that meant they had never had the opportunity to sit up and engage with the world around them. They were either carried or left to lie on the floor. For the majority of the children we were able to modify chairs and buggies to support them in a good sitting position. A set of wheels not only provided them with mobility, the opportunity for independent sitting and the chance to see the world around them but also respite and relief for the mothers who have had to carry them around for the last 6,7,8,9,10+ years many of whom also had younger children/babies they also needed to care for and carry. The smile of one little boy, who had a bilateral amputation, captured the hearts of many!

We were thrilled to be able to provide some of the children with Piedro boots (supportive footwear) to help them as they learn to walk. What a joy to watch one little boy race off with his new shoes and walking frame, leaving his mum behind!

It never ceases to amaze us when ‘just the right’ chair, strap or gadget is available for someone as if God placed their name on it. We had an adult sized buggy with a chest harness that perfectly suited a tall young man with uncontrolled movements. What a transformation from lying on the floor looking up at everyone to looking ahead at the world around him.

Unfortunately, as the day drew to a close we were unable to provide a set of wheels for a very small, severely disabled child as we had nothing even vaguely suitable left. Sune did a fabulous job of teaching mum some exercise and offering advice, but there was an over-riding sense of dissatisfaction as mum left. With 3 days of distribution still ahead of us we are aware that we may have many disappointed families and heart-breaking moments for us.

We are continually so very grateful for the amazing support, knowledge and skills of the RILD team as they not only translate for us but also give us an insight into the culture and lifestyles of those we encounter.

Wheelsblog: Uganda (24.10.16)

Wheelsblog: Uganda (24.10.16)

The first day of our distribution started very early, leaving at 8am. After a detour to avoid a stranded lorry (these things happen in Africa) we arrived on site to be greeted by our first clients who were already waiting. However, we still had a little work to do – sorting all the wheelchairs and checking our equipment. Kathy organised everyone who had been registered, the therapists set up their stations, the techies picked up their tools and we were off.

There were several highlights in the day, including a lady who walked off on crutches while carrying a zimmer frame on her head! Also a girl of nine who shouted ‘I shall have a bicycle like my friends!’ when she saw her wheelchair and was completely delighted with it.

The pastors were kept busy praying and giving out bibles. They talked about the love of God and many responded. Of particular note was a Muslim man who was initially not keen to speak to the pastor but wanted a bible. After talking with the pastor, he said he had been a Christian but his father had insisted he was a Muslim, and he then reconnected with Jesus with great rejoicing. We were very moved.

In total we saw 53 clients today, but as the light was fading fast at 6pm we had to turn four people away. Please pray that the demand and availability of care matches, and that we find loving ways to prioritise people as so many seem to be in real need and some have travelled up to 35km to get to us. Please also pray about the pressure this puts on the team, particularly Hannah the leader. We are also praising God that so many people have heard the good news today and that the local pastors are doing a great job of explaining how God’s love has motivated us to come and bless people with chairs.

Wheels in Uganda (Sunday 23.10.16)

Wheels in Uganda (Sunday 23.10.16)

Wheels for the World are hard at work in Uganda from the 21st October to the 2nd November, and they'll be reporting back with blog posts and updates whenever time and internet connections allow. Please follow along with all the stories here, and do pray for the team and everyone they're meeting and serving.

Hello from Uganda! After a long and sleepless flight, we arrived safely in Uganda and enjoyed a pleasant rest in the aptly named Rest Gardens, an Anglican run hotel. The RILD team (Response Initiative to Learning Disability) welcomed us with a meal. Evah, Daniel, Titus and Leonard met Hannah, our much cherished leader (who is currently being dictated to!), Kathy, Ang, Suné, Helen, Martin and Philip, and we feel a warm and productive working relationship will be the order of the day.

After a good night’s sleep and a good breakfast, we hit the road and travelled the five hours through the beautiful and fascinating Ugandan towns and countryside. We stopped at a secondary school for a brief loo stop. Unfortunately, Hannah was bitten three times on her hands and since we were using traditional latrines, it was fortunate that it wasn’t worse!

The hotel we arrived at had the wow factor, it was the only one with space available, but it is very swish and a lovely answer to prayer! After a quick freshen up and unpacking, we headed out to inspect the distribution facility. This exceeded all our expectations and will be ideal (it may even have sit-on loos!). Almost as important, there is a lovely veranda where the therapists can have their work stations in some shade.

The RILD team unloaded the wheelchairs when the container arrived yesterday (another answer to prayer) and had formed some very impressive ranks of chairs. 130 chairs take up some space! We have walkers, crutches, buggies and a good range of accessories as well. We started sorting the wheelchairs into sizes until poor light stopped play and we returned to our wonderful big bus for the journey back through fire-lit villages back to the hotel.
Before our dinner arrived, we had an esteemed guest, the local MP, the honourable Nagwomu Moses Musamba, had travelled from Kampala today to welcome us and plans to visit us on site tomorrow. As a man of God, he has a vision for the future of this region and was very welcoming to whole team.