A wheelchair provides more than just mobility.
A wheelchair provides new opportunities to pursue an education, earn a living, participate in community, and promote inclusivity.
The gift of a wheelchair can empower a life.
Meet Rachel, a 69-year-old grandmother who lives in Rwanda.
Rachel contracted polio at the age of six, resulting in paralysis of her right leg. With no access to mobility aids in her remote mountain village, Rachel would use two wooden sticks as crutches to walk with great difficulty. She did this until she turned 50, at which point, she could no longer stand and resorted to crawling.
Rachel could not afford to buy any mobility aids on the meager income she earned by knitting sweaters. She would spend long hours in a wooden chair that was uncomfortable and caused pressure sores.
Further compounding her challenges was the stigma she faced throughout her lifetime. In some parts of Africa, disability is seen as a curse, and people with disabilities are often shunned due to fear of being cursed by association.
However, Rachel's life changed when received a new wheelchair from our local distribution partner.
She can now sit comfortably as she works, and she no longer has pressure sores. Moreover, her renewed independence has helped to increase her productivity, thus growing her business and boosting her earnings.
Rachel now gives back to the community by teaching knitting skills to other persons with disabilities in her area.
“I get so emotional because the wheelchair made me alive again!” exclaimed Rachel. “Thanks to Free Wheelchair Mission, I left the stigma and am free to share with my neighbors... I’m very happy and making a living. If I didn’t have the wheelchair, really, I might have died. In addition, my inclusion in society is much more improved.”
Rachel’s story is just one of nearly 1.3 million lives transformed by the gift of a wheelchair since 2001.
The gift of a wheelchair can open up new opportunities for people with disabilities to pursue an education, earn a living, and participate in society, like it has for Rachel.
Mobility also promotes inclusivity by empowering people with disabilities to be more visible and active in their communities.
Francis Mugwanya, the founder of Father’s Heart Mobility Ministry in Uganda and a wheelchair user himself, said that people with disabilities must contend with “this stigma where people are thinking you're second class—you're useless, you're unable to learn or do anything— but once you get a wheelchair, first of all, you you're presentable: you're clean and you're able to interact with people.
“People are more likely to start interacting with you, and for many, they're able to go to school and some are able to go to work, and once you have a person with a disability out there in the community, not hidden away and not behind the houses. People begin asking questions and the more they learn about you, the more that stigma goes away. You begin to interact, and they begin to realize you're actually normal and you have potential. You're able to start making friends, you're able to work, you're able to go to school.”