War & Wheelchairs Blog 3: Felix
Today HHA and The Walkabout Foundation's trip to Uganda draws to an end, following whats been an incredible two weeks in Uganda. A few of the HHA team have shared the below;
Felix is a teenager and a refugee with a disability. Felix's father was killed in the war. His mother is his only carer. Due to his severe disability he has laid in the same position for almost 17 years. The team were sceptical he could even be fitted with a chair due to his severe hip fixation and complex needs. As the team doubted, the mother began to weep, desperate to see her son helped. HHAs CEO Carwyn said, 'you could see the longing in her eyes, the desperation out of love to see her son get some support after years of incredible hardship. You could sense this mother had given every last ounce of love and energy to bring her son this far.'
Sibille, a physiotherapist who works with HHA in Haiti, along with The Walkabout Foundation's team who are trained WHO wheelchair technicians put their heads together. Foam and material came together to create a bespoke seating system that would allow Felix to be placed comfortably in the chair, both enabling the mother to no longer have to carry him and allowing Felix to have a more upright view of the world. The peace and genuine hope and joy this gave the mother and Felix was humbling and incredibly powerful to witness.
Over the last few days in the refugee camp, these stories and complex cases have been a daily occurrence for the team. On average over 30 wheelchairs were fitted each day along with hand-tricycles. A tricycle can be incredibly empowering to someone who's only method of transport is crawling, often for miles, through dust and dirt. Seeing children, adults and the elderly crawling around is something which almost becomes normality here, though in reality is a shocking and undignified reflection of how far persons with disabilities have been left behind in our world. For younger and fitter individuals, tricycles can change all that and allow them to travel around the camp, fetching water and food rations in an independent and dignified way.
Life in the camp appears peaceful. However life as a refugee is incredibly hard. The past is hard to think about, the future is hard to think about, and the present is also hard to think about. Some of the most vulnerable people in the camp are those with disabilities. In June HHA provided disability training for local leaders, many of whom said wheelchairs was a pressing need. This week it was a joy to return to the training location with wheelchairs, seating the most needy from the community and seeing those community workers HHA had trained mobilising their communities and taking the lead.
As the last wheelchair was fitted today, to a lady in a remote village on the South Sudanese border, the team prepares to return home. Thanks to The Walkabout Foundation and Euromonitor International who sponsored the chairs distributed during this trip, 250 wheelchairs and 40 tricycles have been distributed in just 10 working days. We'd like to express our deep thanks to them for making this possible, and all those who donated funds to HHA, allowing this partnership and work to take place. Photo below: James, an employee of Euromonitor International, volunteering with The Walkabout Foundation on this trip: