The Wheelchair Sustainability Project
For more than 8 years, students and faculty from the College of Health Professions have participated in medical mission trips bringing health care services to underserved regions like Uganda, Nicaragua, and Vietnam. Witnessing the need in these countries has inspired our team to help change what’s possible for the residents of Uganda by developing, piloting, and refining a business plan to impact wheel chair production, one district at a time.
Regardless of where they reside, individuals with disabilities or mobility problems are vulnerable. They experience a number of concerns and fears related not only to their health, but their quality of life and mobility as well. For patients living in Uganda, these concerns are amplified due to poverty, lack of disability services and statistics, and the absence of social assistance programs for individuals with disabilities. Often their ability to participate in household tasks like obtaining food and water, or attend school and work is severely limited. It’s not uncommon for these patients to crawl or be carried by a family member because of the lack of availability of mobility devices, especially wheelchairs. In fact, estimates suggest that Uganda needs an average of 4,446 wheelchairs per district in each of their 80 districts; a need that isn’t currently being met.
Estimates suggest that Uganda needs an average of 4,446 wheelchairs per district in each of their 80 districts; a need that isn’t currently being met.
In collaboration with OneWorld Health, a non-profit organization with a mission to provide quality, affordable healthcare to people in need, and Ugandan stakeholders, we hope to develop a long-term sustainable plan for access to wheelchairs and mobility capacity starting in Masindi, Uganda.
In May of 2019, we kick off our project by offering a wheelchair seating and mobility clinic at OneWorld Health’s Masindi Kitara Medical Center. MUSC students and faculty members have already committed to volunteering 10 days of their time and nearly $4,000 each to host the clinic. The first of its kind event will give us the opportunity to work alongside community partners to share knowledge, skills and resources. After a needs-assessment, both children and adults of the region will be evaluated, then fitted to, and finally instructed in wheelchair use.
Additionally, we will use the opportunity to engage with Ugandan community partners to better understand the specific and unique circumstances in Masindi. These partners have been invited to participate in the event and explore the opportunities for addressing wheelchair sustainability in the country. We hope that our conversation will increase the possibilities for in-country assembly, manufacturing and repair of wheelchairs in Uganda. Our ability to build relationships and gain an understanding of the practices, norms, and habits of the area is what will make our project successful. We feel strongly that those that we aim to help should be engaged in the project in order to build a sustainable solution to wheelchair provision in Masindi.
How can you help?
We need your financial support. The success of our project relies heavily our ability to provide participants of our clinic with wheelchairs. Demonstrating first-hand the positive, life-changing impact that wheelchairs will have on the Ugandan community is critical.
In the past, our teams have addressed the need with short-term measures like importing used wheelchairs from the US or building wheelchairs from readily available materials in the area. While creative, neither option addresses safety and maintenance concerns or the rugged African terrain. Fortunately, Whirlwind Wheelchair has already designed a perfect solution; the Roughrider Wheelchair. It’s low-cost, durable, easily repairable, and appropriately designed for the area.
For every $800 raised, we can provide one Roughrider Wheelchair to a Ugandan citizen in need. Our initial goal is to provide 6 Roughrider Wheelchairs to the community in May of 2019. Next year, we hope that our project will continue to grow and that ultimately, we can send 145 wheelchairs to Uganda in May of 2020. Your investment directly impacts our ability to enhance mobility for individuals with disabilities and stimulate wheelchair sustainability in Uganda. In short, your donation will change what’s possible for the citizens of Uganda.