So far, we have organised three container shipments to Zambia filled with wheelchairs for kids originating from Australia. The first two containers, a total of 350 wheelchairs, have successfully been distributed around Zambia to disabled children in need. Thanks to the good cooperation and help of several other local organisations, the joined forces have been working towards the wellbeing of disabled children around the county.
The arrival of the third container in July 2019, holding 163 new wheelchairs and needed spare parts, will enable us to reach the goal of having successfully distributed 500 wheelchairs within the end of the year.
We have been working together with more than 10 organisations all around Zambia. These organisations, identify the children in need of a wheelchair as well as make a professional assessment with help of local physiotherapists. Following, the technicians from Zambian Association of children with disabilities (ZACD) assemble the wheelchairs and instruct the local fitters or carers how to do this in the future.
The fitting of the wheelchair is customised for every individual child. The optimal measurements and adaptations needed for each correctly assembled wheelchair, take a total two hours to complete.
After the assembly, a child will be provided with instructions and knowledge regarding the driving and manoeuvring practices of the wheelchair as well as the related safety and maintenance information.
For every wheelchair distributed we receive a feedback form including two digital photos of the wheelchair and its new owner. This allows us to check the fitting, have knowledge regarding the location of the wheelchair and the household it has been appointed to. From the first 350 wheelchairs distributed so far we have received 90% of the feedback.
The robust fabrication of the wheelchairs make them ideal for the rough African terrain, further the different set up variabilities make the wheelchairs ideal of for the many different disabilities we have encounter throughout Zambia.
All collaborating organisations are asked to do follow up visits 3 to 6 months after a child received the wheelchair, in order to adapt, repair or exchange the fault parts of the wheelchair (if any). Further, the visits allow to inquire and gain knowledge regarding the impact of the wheelchair, on the social life of the child as well as the wellbeing of the family.
Follow up visits are often challenging as many children live in rural areas and far away from the structures where they originally received the wheelchair. The use of public transport for a disabled child with a wheelchair is of high cost and proposes some difficulties seen the impairment and the unsuitable nature of the transport vehicles.
Therefore, the most appropriate way to perform follow up visits has been found to be through the implementation of outreach programs which allow to visit 4 or 5 children a day. An undertaking as such requires transport, for instance a car, and someone knowledgeable of the local topography to find the households of the families with a wheelchair. Blu Spring has developed a follow up form for this purpose, and has organised two follow up visits: one in November 2018 in the Chipata area and another in March 2019 in the Lusaka. During which the organisation managed to visit 30 children, for more information about the follow up visits you can read the following articles.
2018 was a great year for Blu Spring as we set up our biggest project yet which is currently successfully taking place throuhout Zambia. The big wheelchair project was set in action collaborating with the Australian organization Wheelchairs for kids, which donated the organization 166 wheelchairs. The financial challenge was to gather the needed founding to transport the wheelchairs, in a container, from Perth, Australia to Zambia. This goal has been achieved thanks to the support of public as well as private donations. This allowed to container with the wheelchairs to arrive in Zambia in May 2018. All the wheelchairs have been successfully distributed in different locations throughout Zambia and been set up and adjusted to every kids specific needs. This has all been achieved by professional volunteers and with the help and collaboration of other great organizations.
Thanks to the success of the project we are currently working towards a new shipment of wheelchairs for 2019.
One of the biggest challenges we encountered with the 5 severe cerebral disabled children in Kasisi was how to improve their sitting position.
They were seated in a baby strollers without side and foot support, a really bad position.
Even though during the previous visits we managed to assemble children's car safety chairs on the strollers frame and put more side and head support, the position was still not ideal.
The solution was found during a visit to a group of mothers with their disabled children, in the rural area from the South Luangwa Valley together with the Touch Therapy Program, a group directed by a Dutch volunteer.
One of this children was seated in a special wheelchair. We had never seen this kind of wheelchair, but we thought it would have been perfect for the heavily disabled children in Kasisi.
The wheelchair is modular and every piece can be assembled to the individual need for the child, and be adapted with their development; it is also very stable.
Luckily on the back side there was a plate with the name of the construction company, "Wheelchairs for Kids", from Australia.
After our return, we looked up their website and learn that the wheelchairs are made by volunteers near Perth, in Australia, and are donated (under certain conditions) to projects or children in developing countries all over the world.
After exchanging few e-mails with Don from Wheelchair for Kids, we got the great message that the request for 8 wheelchairs was granted, on the condition that we would go to Zambia to assemble and fit the children into their new chairs.
With help of friends, family, a lot of patients from our clinic and a really big donation from a man we never met personally, we could organise and finance the transport from Australia to the Children's Home in Lusaka.
Three months later the package with the wheelchairs arrived. We started to prepare our trip to Zambia to assemble and individually fit the wheelchairs. This was our fourth visit to the Kasisi children's Home and for the first time all the travel expenses were covered by sponsors.
Soon after our arrival, we started to assemble one of the chairs; after 3 days all 5 children were seated in their new wheelchairs. After observing each child for few days, we adjusted some small things to reach the most perfect sitting position: not an easy task as the children are heavily disabled.
One child in the neighborhood of Kasisi also received a wheelchair. This allowed him to be more independant, being able to attend school, and gave his mother the possibility to go back to work. Aspects that lightened the family from a lot of worries.
Thanks to our previous experience and continued contact with the Wheelchair for Kids organization, during our 5th visit to Zambia we were invited to go to Northern Zambia to the town of Ndoldin.
There we were asked to look over and help an organization in two orphanages with the adjustment of the old wheelchairs and the assemblage of new ones.
Unfortunately, due to the lack of organization, we were not able to achieve as much as hoped. Nonetheless, the experience gave us a good insight of the situation in some of the orphanages in Zambia.
One of the conditions in order to receive a wheelchair is to have a professional that assembles and fits the children in the chair. Many orphanages and organisations cannot guarantee this, as there is a lack of physiotherapists and ergo-therapists in Zambia.
As this is the case, Wheelchair for Kids will put the demanding organisation in contact with Blu Spring to see if we can supply them with the professional help needed.
As for the future, we are currently in touch with ACRA, an Italian organisation with activities in the Zambian town of Chipata, which has asked for our help to assemble 10 Wheelchairs.
Furthermore, we are working on a partnership with Project Luangwa and Touch Therapy Program in the area of Mafuwe, to help us set up multiple wheelchairs for the needy school kids in the Luangwa Valley.
We are more than happy to accommodate their needs. As the two locations are close, the idea is to put the two parties in contact, in order to organize and combine their request for wheelchairs and share the shipment costs, making the freight expenses cheaper.