War and Wheelchairs: 91 wheelchairs and 400+ IDPs
Aside from our day of travel, we’ve only been in Uganda for 3 working days and it’s already hard knowing how to fit all thats been achieved in. There’s a real sense of something special happening here through our local and visiting team (HHA & The Walkabout Foundation), as things continue to grow at an exciting pace.
In the last three days our wonderful team have had the privilege to help distribute 91 brand new wheelchairs provided by The Walkabout Foundation (WF), which were kindly sponsored by Euromonitor International - a huge thanks to them! These chairs were designed specifically for individuals in developing countries where accessible smooth paths are often rare. HHA and WF have been doing wheelchair distributions for years in Haiti, but it's always amazing seeing the life-changing impact and joy given to people receiving their first wheelchair in life. It's hard to put into words the incredible difference being made, but the smile of this little chap getting his wheelchair gives a good indication as to what your support is helping to achieve.
This was a welcome way to end a fairly emotional day, having travelled for about 2.5 hours from the team to visit a group of refugees we’ve been supporting for the last 6 months with emergency food rations and agriculture support. Sadly, in the last weeks these individuals were displaced from their IDP camp due to intensified fighting and forced to cross into Uganda. It was a little overwhelming seeing so many people (perhaps 400+) turn out to feed back to HHA on the impact of our support to date but also the needs going forward…of which there are many.
One elderly disabled man (pictured below) described how the fighting had happened at night as opposing forces clashed inside the IDP camp, with those able too running into the bush in fear of their lives. Yet, this courageous old man shared how he and others to old, weak or unable to move, were left with bullets flying over their heads, forced to remain within the camp, even with the fighting around them. Armed men approached him, a fearful moment in a war which sees widespread, indiscriminate killing, even of women, children, the elderly and disabled. There is a deep time of emotional worship as those like this man give thanks that on this occasion their lives were spared.
Amidst the see of faces are individuals I’ve met before. Even though I've only spent short periods of time with these amazing people, I'm genuinely relived seeing many of them again; though also left wondering whether some of the others I met before made it out of this fighting? Tragically, reports suggest that not everyone did. Despite the host of harrowing stories and the realities of many having crossed the border literally just with the clothes they were wearing, there is some sense of hope here. I’m encouraged and proud to see the community disability team we helped train in June and July, independently and without any prompting start registering all those with disabilities so they could join HHA’s aid programme. We'll be continuing to provide emergency food rations and tarpaulins for shelter as most have now been left homeless once again. If you'd like to support this, please do make a donation.
One of the board of The Baptist Convention of South Sudan shares with me that the UN emergency cluster group in charge of coordinating the response to these IDPs called him requesting we take the lead on caring for those with disabilities. A powerful testimony to the impact our team have been having since June. I hear that 70-90% of HHAs crops planted in our first harvest were successful and am encouraged seeing women and children proudly eating the harvest they’ve yielded from HHAs support, with an incredible resilience and dare I say even joy, despite such desperate circumstances.