Week 7 Part B: Wheels for the World in Uganda 2021 - Supported Distribution

Week 7 Part B: Wheels for the World in Uganda 2021 - Supported Distribution

Supported Distribution to the Bidi Bidi Refugee Camp, N.W. Uganda
Wheels Blog Week 7 Part B (19th March 2021)

Martin in his new wheelchairOn Friday afternoon we finally finished the first Wheels Supported Distribution in Bidi Bidi with our partners Hope Health Action (HHA). Each session last week had members of the TTR team saying their goodbye to people that they had come to know and respect as they completed their last session with the team and, just like a ‘real’ distribution, the goodbyes were tinged with sadness as we will miss the wonderful people out there in Uganda.

In Friday’s two sessions the HHA team went out to the people in the camp and gave out the three remaining wheelchairs, two to amputees and one to the lady who was severely malnourished who they had seen earlier in the week. The morning team first saw Martin who is 47 years old and normally gets around by crawling. The smile on his face at receiving a wheelchair says more than words can express, his dignity has been restored and he can go and meet people in his community.

Cosmas in her new wheelchairThen they visited 6 year old Cosmas seen here in a slightly too large a chair with Moses altering and adjusting and modifying it to suit him as best as he can.

Cosmas2At the end of a distribution it is often difficult to provide the best chair to suit the remaining people and so we have to work harder to make adjustments and, as you can see, Moses has a pretty good set of tools to help him make those adjustments. Cosmas had had his right foot amputated, and although he apparently walks a little, the wheelchair will enable him to go to school more easily and will be large enough for him for many years.

The final person we saw was Sejerina. She was 90 minutes’ drive away from Cosmas’s home and, as we waited for the team to get to her, our thoughts went to the picture we saw of her on Tuesday when she was seen by the HHA team. Her condition had deteriorated since her initial assessment before the distribution had started and her malnutrition was clearly evident. When we got online with a video call, the sight of her frail body again made us sad and fearful for her. She had suffered a stroke and could not talk. Having only one wheelchair left the HHA team mustered all the skills they had learnt over the previous seven weeks and cut down a Zimmer frame to extend the back rest so that Sejerina’s back and head could be better supported and then added foam padding to make her as comfortable as possible. As they worked on the chair, she sat on the adjacent ground cradled in the arms of one of her sons. We didn’t want to end the distribution with this sad image. We had done the very best for her and so asked Clement and Agnes if they could contact the authorities to try to get her to a clinic or hospital for treatment, which they agreed to do. Sadly Sejerina won’t be the only person who is malnourished, but as I reflect on the seemingly impossible situation I am reminded that we have a God of the impossible. I also recall a quote from Mother Theresa, “Never worry about numbers. Help one person at a time and always start with the person nearest you.”

As I write this blog on Tuesday evening we have just had a message from HHA saying, ’We were able to refer Sejerina to the village Health Team in the camp, they have referred her to the hospital to stay in until she regains her power. They also said they had wanted to feed Sejerina themselves in the hospital’, so thank you for your prayers and please keep praying that she will gain strength and be able to enjoy going out in her wheelchair.

So we have said goodbye to the HHA team for now; we are amazed at what they have achieved and how they have patiently listened to all our questions and suggestions, taken them on board and grown in confidence over the past seven weeks. This was our first Supported Distribution, but it won’t be the last. We assisted and/or advised the HHA team dealing with 196 people with over 20 different conditions. The team on the ground has certainly seen more people whilst the internet connection was down or even before we got on line each morning at 07:00.

We will now be reviewing the experience, doing our SWOT analysis and learning lessons for the next distribution. Thank you for coming on this journey with us over the weeks. Thank you too for messages of support and for your prayers for both the TTR team and our HHA partners in this venture. If you want to support the Wheels for the World financially to enable this work to continue, please check out the donate page here on the Through the Roof website

Week 7: Wheels for the World in Uganda 2021 - Supported Distribution

Supported Distribution to the Bidi Bid Refugee Camp, N.W. Uganda
Wheels Blog Week 7 (15th to 18th March 2021)

A pick up truck, loaded with wheelchairsYou may have noticed a difference in the timescale for this week’s distribution. This is because we have decided to extend the distribution by three days (ending Friday 19th) to enable the remaining wheelchairs to be allocated. We were able to do this because of the TTR team members who have offered additional time. In saying this, this in no way takes anything away from those who were unable to continue past the dates they originally committed to and for whom we are so grateful. We must also pay tribute to the Hope Health Action (HHA) team out in Bidi Bidi who have agreed to continue and have worked tirelessly in 40°C heat, each morning taking a loaded pick-up truck out into different areas of the Camp to give a gift of a wheelchair or walking aid to people whose lives are then transformed.

Shifrah sits in her new wheelchairSo far this week, and with a day to go, we have seen 57 people varying in age from two to ninety nine. Each of them treated with care and compassion by our HHA colleagues ‘on the ground’. Each person has an individual story of hardship; the majority fleeing for their lives from attack by South Sudanese rebels in 2016. People like Shifrah Tokosang, born in 1947. She is from South Sudan and arrived in Bidi Bidi in 2016.

In 2020 she started feeling weakness in her both legs which worsened until she could no longer walk, go for prayers, or even prepare herself a meal. She has spent most of her time inside her house.

Her children do not live with her; some have died, her daughters have married and have moved out and others are still in South Sudan. Her wheelchair will now help her move around and even get to the church.

On Monday we were shown a photo of a badly malnourished lady, Sejerina, who looked far older than her 52 years. She was pictured leaning against a wall sitting on a low bed in her hut with little flesh on her bones and our hearts went out to her. The HHA team were visiting her in her home with the intention of giving her a wheelchair, but her condition has deteriorated such that she would be unable to sit in a normal chair. It was clear that she needed medical attention and we are praying that the HHA team will be able to refer her for treatment. Sadly we are sure there are many more people like Sejerina in the refugee camp and we have heard that UNHCR have recently cut the food rations that are handed out to refugees by 40% due to lack of funding. Please pray for Sejerina and her family. We may not know much about her, but God does and He hears the cry of our hearts.

Abudu and family in his new chairAt the end of every distribution the choice of wheelchairs or walking aids becomes more and more limited and the team has to adapt what they have to suit the people coming for an aid. This distribution is no different. Our brilliant HHA partner have coped with the challenge fabulously and our thanks go to them for this amazing adaptation of a walking aid by adding a spare pair of footplates. This will enable 13 year old Abudu’s father to push him to school where he can then use it to walk around. Here are the smiling faces of Moses, Agnes and Clement, with Abudu who is already very proud of it and has named it ‘Landcruncher Prado’.

God Sings Over You! (Ros' Blog)

God Sings Over You! (Ros' Blog)

Out for my early morning walk yesterday, I observed a very amusing sight. It was funny because it had a happy ending, but it included a heart-stopping moment. I was walking through the woods and there were 2 male blackbirds on the path in front of me. They stayed there until I got quite close and then, in a moment of panic, flew up about fifteen feet into the air, crashed into each other, got their wings tangled up together and came tumbling back down to land smack on the ground at my feet. They scrabbled furiously to untangle themselves and then both flew up into a tree to recover from the shock and nurse their headaches!

The day before, I had been reading and meditating on Zephaniah 3.17. In the version I was reading (New American Standard Bible) it reads like this: “The Lord your God is in your midst, a victorious warrior. He will rejoice over you with joy, He will be quiet in His love, He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy.” My husband had simultaneously been reading it in the New Living Translation, which renders that last bit, “With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.”

I noted the differences between the two versions, and I decided to look it up in some other translations, and I found the differences growing wider. Some said, “In his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.” Or, “In his love he will no longer punish you. Instead, he will sing for joy because of you.” And in the King James Version it’s, “He will rest in His love, he will joy over thee with singing.”

Obviously the gist of it is similar in all the versions, but there is some difference in emphasis and interpretation. I have never studied Hebrew, but I decided to look up a Hebrew-English interlinear translation and see how it translates literally from the Hebrew. The first thing I noticed was the opening line: “Yahweh Elohim is within-of-you.” Or, as we would say, “within yours”. In other words, everything that is yours, everything that pertains to you – the Lord is within it. What a wonderful thought. There’s nothing of our lives from which God is absent. Our homes, our circle of influence, our circumstances. God is present. When life is hard, maybe through people misunderstanding or rejecting us because of disability, or maybe because we live with pain or fatigue or discrimination, God is present. When we miss our families because of lockdown, when we experience loneliness, God is present.

And not only present with us, but His heart is for us! The Hebrew-English interlinear translation continues, “Masterful, He will save.” God is the Master over all our circumstances, and He is in them to save us. It gets even better. “He shall be elated over you.” That’s an amazing thought.

When I came across those two blackbirds I was pretty elated to see them sitting there, apparently so tame, right on the path a couple of feet away from me. I had no intention of harming them. Had they stayed there, I would have stopped still to avoid frightening them. And that brings me to the next part of the verse. In the Hebrew-English interlinear version it reads, “In rejoicing He shall be silent in his love.” What a wonderful thought. Just as I was silently rejoicing in the delightful sight of those two birds, God is silently rejoicing over us.

If those two little birds had known that, they might not have had their mid-air collision and got themselves into such a pickle. And even then, when they came crashing down at my feet, I stood completely still so as not to alarm them. I certainly wouldn’t have hurt them in any way, and their fear of me was unfounded, and yet they were frantic in their attempts to untangle themselves and fly away from me. So often we pick up the vibes from the world around us and project them onto God. Those who experience disability discrimination in a world that doubts their worth (like the shocking discussion in which Lord Sumption told a woman with cancer that her life was of less value than other people’s) may begin to fear that God sees them in that way, too. This verse assures us that we need have no fear on that score.

Finally, the interlinear translation of the verse ends, “He shall exult over you in jubilation.” Far from being dissatisfied with us, God is elated and exults over us. Just as I went home with a spring in my step because I had enjoyed my encounter with the little birds, so God experiences a surge of joy every time you turn to Him and spend time focussing on Him. And you can be sure you have nothing to fear from him. So don’t be like those blackbirds, crashing into something in your frightened attempt to escape from Him. Instead, rest along with Him and enjoy the sound of His joyful singing over you. “He will rest in His love, He will joy over thee with singing.”


Week 6: Wheels for the World in Uganda 2021 - Supported Distribution

Supported Distribution to the Bidi Bid Refugee Camp, N.W. Uganda
Wheels Blog Week 6 (8th and 9th March 2021)

Pick-up-truckIt’s been another busy week for the TTR team assisting Hope Health Action (HHA) out in Bidi Bidi, Uganda. Each day the HHA team load up their pick-up truck and head off to the area of the vast camp that they are working in that day. This can take an hour or more as they travel over the murram (dirt) roads leaving clouds of dust behind them.
At this stage of any distribution, there are shortages of certain pieces of equipment and sizes of wheelchairs, so wisdom is needed about what to take and what would be most suitable for the people the team intends to see.

This week we saw fewer clients – a total of 16 over the two days. Part of the reason for this is that some people were not able to attend the distribution site because of illness, but this week in particular the HHA team went out to visit people in more remote areas who would otherwise not be able to get help. It takes time travelling between each area as some of the team will recall from their visit in 2019, travelling for an hour or more, then selecting the equipment they need before walking from a road through crops to remote compounds where people live in reed roofed mud huts.

As with previous weeks the people helped ranged from children through to the elderly, several who have contracted polio or TB; illnesses now unknown in the West. Then there were cases of cerebral palsy and dislocated hips, amputations, accidents and general weakness due to old age, each of which were handled sensitively by the teams here in the UK and in Uganda.

The Monday afternoon TTR team were the ones who assisted the HHA team on the home visits and reported that, ’After losing internet connection during the initial afternoon prayer time at the base, the team continued to pray, giving thanks for the work completed in the morning and for logistics, blessings and protection as the HHA team travelled for around an hour to reach the clients who were unable reach the distribution centre themselves.’

They went on to say, ’In the UK, it can be easy to take for granted how quick and easy it is to access your local community or any services you need’. They waited in anticipation to see if the internet would hold and who they would see. This was an interesting international extension to what some of the UK based community therapists working during the pandemic were already doing - a virtual home visit from their sitting room!

They saw two clients. First there was 70 year old Jane, a mother of five children who had had a stroke affecting her left side. She left South Sudan in 2016 after her husband died in the war and has been living with her daughter in the camp. Her three sons abandoned her and stayed behind in South Sudan. She was given a crutch to help her with mobility around the home and compound as well as a wheelchair so her daughter can push her longer distances to the hospital or church.

RufasThen there was a second pause as the UK team waited for HHA to get to the next home, find it and wait for the internet to connect, which by now HHA described as 'not stable'. They persisted with WhatsApp texts and photos as far as possible, which worked better than the UK team were anticipating at the start of the shift. Fifty two year old Rufas, couldn't walk, has TB and is in severe pain. He hadn't had a wheelchair before and had spent a lot of time lying on the floor so was at risk of developing pressure sores. Unfortunately, due to the location of the visit and low supplies as we near the end of the distribution, a specialist pressure relief cushion wasn't available. The HHA team worked hard to make up for this by adapting the wheelchair at the family home to make it comfortable. This involved making thicker seat cushions, providing a backrest cushion and padding the wheelchair arms. Advice was also given around changing between sitting and lying positions regularly including using the wheelchair cushions to lie on. A delight at the end of the day was when the team were able to connect with a video call at Rufas' home to give thanks for all HHA had achieved that afternoon.

MungiaThe team also had challenges with complex cases of children trying to adapt the available equipment and giving advice on sleeping positions to prevent further damage to their frail frames. This is 6 year old Mungia who was first seen by the Tuesday morning team. He has cerebral palsy and cannot control his head movement He also has fixed arm positions and a rotated hip causing a dislocation of his femur. The team thought that a special reclining chair would be suitable but after a while we were told his mother would not be able to use the heavy chair and so a normal chair was adapted. This case took a long time and was the handed over to the afternoon team who completed the fitting, suggesting a harness to stop him falling forward and a strap to support his feet instead of the foam that the HHA team had put on the footplates. The special chair was later used by the afternoon team for an 18 year old client, also with the cerebral palsy, so it was not taken back to the store.

This week we commenced the use of a Client Assessment form which the UK team had devised. The HHA team to complete, photograph and send to the session therapist and techie which reduces the questions the UK team need to ask. This seemed to work and, looking to the future, we may be recommending its use in any future supported distributions.

Week 5: Wheels for the World in Uganda 2021 - Supported Distribution

Supported Distribution to the Bidi Bid Refugee Camp, N.W. Uganda

Wheels Blog Week 5 (1st and 2nd March 2021)

Well, we have now completed Week 5 of this rather unusual and novel distribution and have only two more weeks left. The Hope Health Action (HHA) team have once again been doing a fabulous job ‘on the ground’ and have distributed 83 of the 135 wheelchairs we sent out and all 55 pairs of elbow crutches. Many clients only required a single crutch. This is a fantastic achievement. The TTR team of therapists and techies have given advice for 115 clients. Our revised system of using WhatsApp photos and messages, rather than video is working well, although it is nice to see the HHA team and talk with them. We therefore try to get at least some time together each session, but depending on where in the camp they are it is not always possible as the reception can be very poor. We have, as a TTR team, been working on a short Client Assessment Form which we hope can be filled out, photographed and sent to the session team to speed up the process of identifying the condition of the person we are seeing. We hope that this will be rolled out next week.

Abiria with her new crutchesThis week we saw 27 people, many of whom were aged over 70 including one, named Abiria (pictured left) who we were told was 101!

It is perhaps easy to just read these words and feel pleased that these people have been helped, but the reality is that each item given out makes a real impact to the lives of the people who receive them.

Some, like Teresa who is 66 years old contracted polio when she was four and could not move on her own without support. She now has significant scoliosis and kyphosis (deformities of the spine). Teresa came from South Sudan’s Yei County in 2016Teresa in her new fitted wheelchair due to the civil war, fleeing to Bidi Bidi when two of her neighbours were killed in cold blood by unknown gunmen.

Due to her disability she decided not to marry and be burden to someone. She received support from her parents, but unfortunately they died of sickness in South Sudan at an old age. She is currently been taken care of by her uncles.

Teresa has now received a special wheelchair which will aid her mobility and reduce the burden on her uncles. She can now go to the market, hospital and get her rations.

She was touched by the word of God, and can now go to church in her wheelchair. She says, “Thank you so much. May God bless you.”

We also saw a few younger people with polio and gave advice on the need for a pressure relieving cushion for an eleven year old boy paralysed since birth who had a pressure sore. We were told that his father is treating the sore with honey which, as some may know, has antiseptic properties and is available in the camp.

Simon with his new wheelchairWe were also able to supply a wheelchair to Simon Mogga who is the Pastor of Joy Baptist Church in Zone 5. He has had a stroke resulting in weakness down his left side and, although he can walk for short distances within his family compound, visiting his congregation is more challenging. Now he will be able to make his pastoral visits more easily with renewed self-esteem and dignity. The TTR therapist and techie were very encouraged meeting such a lovely man and wished him God’s richest blessing. We pray that he gets on well with his new wheelchair. He said that he was very happy with the support given to him by HHA and TTR.

Here he is pictured before the final wheelchair fitting.

Finally, the UK team were saddened to hear of the sudden death in hospital in Uganda of Ivan (24), the brother of Isaac (the HHA Senior Field Coordinator). The Monday morning session team were introduced to Isaac’s father and several of his brothers and Neil, one of our techies, prayed with the family. Isaac said that, ‘Their hope is firmly in the Lord and they are comforted by the assurance that Ivan is with his Lord and they will all be reunited in glory.’
Our condolences go to Isaac and his family.

Be a Roofbreaker in your Church or Ministry

Be a Roofbreaker in your Church or Ministry

Do you want to make sure disabled people can come to know Jesus?

Could you be a ‘Roofbreaker’ with the charity Through the Roof?

What is a Roofbreaker?

  • The name comes from the account in Luke’s Gospel Chapter 5 where the four friends bring the paralysed man to Jesus, breaking through the roof.
  • They wanted to remove the barriers preventing their disabled friend from coming to Jesus: and as a Roofbreaker, you can do that too.
  • You don’t need to be an expert in disability. You just need to be available to connect with disabled people, enabling full belonging in your church community.
  • Roofbreakers celebrate and encourage the involvement of disabled people in the life of the church. Just like in the Luke 5 story, when the disabled man met Jesus, everyone benefitted and God was glorified.

What will I do?

  • The main job is to listen to the challenges disabled people tell you they face.
  • The next step is to work with disabled people to find ways around any barriers to church or Christian life.
  • Support and free resources are available from Through the Roof.
  • You can also connect with other Roofbreakers to share information and encourage each other.

Our Roofbreaker project aims to break down the barriers faced by disabled people in Christian life. Follow this link to find out how you can get involved.