Week 4: Wheels for the World in Uganda 2021 - Supported Distribution
Supported Distribution to the Bidi Bid Refugee Camp, N.W. Uganda
Wheels Blog Week 4 (22nd and 23rd February 2021)
We are now half way through our distribution timetable supporting Hope Health Action as they distribute wheelchairs and other walking aids in the Bidi Bidi Refugee Camp in N.W. Uganda. It has been a rewarding task for our team of therapists and techies.
This week we saw around 28 people with a variety of conditions. I use the word conditions rather than complaints, because the people we see do not complain, despite the hard life they have in the camp. They are always so grateful for the gift of a walking aid or wheelchair. Some like Ester already had axilla crutches, but the gift of a wheelchair or a pair of lightweight elbow crutches enable them to get around much more easily.
Ester tells us with a beaming smile, that she's forgotten her age! She lives in Bidi Bidi Zone 5 and is from Yei, South Sudan. She has been living in the camp since 2016 after fleeing the war in South Sudan. Fortunately at that time she was able to get a lift to the camp in a U.N. vehicle. Her husband had died before the war and one of her two sons one was killed during it, so now she just lives with her other son in Bidi Bidi.
Life for Ester has been a real struggle; she has had little help. She has had a painful wound on her leg for 12 years which has caused her lack of mobility. She has been using crutches, but they are uncomfortable and very difficult for her because of her age and fragility.
This week she received a wheelchair and also became a Christian. She was really happy to know about Jesus and plans to go to church in her wheelchair! She'll also be able to go to the hospital as well as collect her rations herself, so she will be able to get more food. She is extremely grateful for the help she has received.
Then there is the story of Gladys who is 9 years old and the oldest of three children. She comes from Kajo Keji, South Sudan. Like Esther above, Gladys and her family came to Bidi Bidi in 2016. They fled South Sudan, because the family had received three death threats. Gladys didn't have a wheelchair for the journey so she had to be carried. Most of the journey was on foot.
Gladys' disability began in 2012 when she contracted malaria. Her parents, who both came with her to the distribution, took her to a clinic in Kajo Keji. There she was given an injection but started having convulsions. She was referred to hospital where she remained for three weeks. When she was finally discharged, she was unable to walk. Her parents took her to a physiotherapist who believed she had contracted polio.
Now they are in Bidi Bidi, there is no possibility for her to go to Arua, over 100km away for physiotherapy. Treatment would also be very expensive. Her father is her greatest advocate and is trying to find support for her so she can access physiotherapy. She is able to stand and walk a couple of paces, but her knees are very stiff.
We provided Gladys with a wheelchair and also a walking frame. This is the first time they have received a mobility device for her. The wheelchair will help her go to school and to church and the frame will help her practice walking in the hope that her legs get stronger. She said she is going to practice every day! The Through the Roof therapist also advised her mother on sleeping positions to help straighten her legs. They were also very happy to hear the word of God and her father beamed when he talked about it.They hope that in the future Gladys will keep studying and will find a job. She is in 3rd year of primary school, is very bright and enjoys studying. Right now the schools are shut for Covid but she can't wait to restart.
Another story was that of Mariamu. She joyfully told us that she is 73 years old. A Ugandan national, she was married and has been blessed with 12 children, but unfortunately seven of them have died.
She was infected with polio at the age of 10 and had to drop out of school because of it. She married at 16, but suffered hatred from her parents because of her disability. We were told that her family considered her to be a useless thing, not a human being. She is thankful to God that her husband didn't divorce her because of her disability. Sadly he died earlier this year.
Over the years she has only been able to crawl on her knees, always indoors, without any access to social gatherings. Today, she told us, is the remarkable day that she has received a wheelchair and can now go to Church, the hospital, the market and visit people.
She says, “Thank you so much HHA and the donors. May God bless you so much.”
These are just three stories of the many people we saw this week. Each one would have a heart breaking story to tell. We were told that life in the camp is a real struggle. Recently the UNHCR was forced to reduce the refugee’s rations again, because of funding difficulties and Covid, so people are going hungry.
Please pray for these refugees and for the agencies like HHA and UNHCR.
We thank God that we have seen 87 people since the beginning of February and at least 24 of them have given their lives to Jesus.
At the end of this week’s distribution we managed to have a WhatsApp video chat with the HHA team and were introduced to the local officials in Zone 5. They expressed their gratitude to all concerned for the work being undertaken by Hope Health Action and Through the Roof in their area. Before signing off for the week, we were led by Agnes, one of the HHA team, in a prayer of thanksgiving for the work achieved and the lives changed.