There are 100 million people in the world who need a wheelchair. However, of this number, an estimated 75 million can not afford one. A low-cost standard wheelchair costs anywhere from $100 to $300. In countries where families live on less than a dollar a day, that cost is astronomical. Therefore, they rely on wheelchair donations.
From genetic disorders to infections that require amputation, people need a wheelchair for any number of reasons. In Sierra Leone, 1,600 people are amputees due to the devastating civil war that ended in 2002. Countries in Africa that have been hard-hit by Ebola, Malaria and other diseases are home to thousands of people that need wheelchairs but can’t afford them.
These people regain their sense of dignity and self-worth when they can move freely on their own. Without the assistance of a wheelchair, they have to rely on others to get from place to place. This makes school and work extremely difficult. With a wheelchair, people with physical disabilities can bring themselves to work and school, breaking themselves out of the vicious cycle of disability and poverty. Here are three organizations that are helping to make mobility a reality for people through wheelchair donations.
The brother and sister team Luis and Carolina Gonzalez-Bunster founded Walkabout Foundation in 2009. In 1994, Luis suffered damage to his spinal cord in a car accident. The injury paralyzed him and doctors told him he would never walk again.
Since its creation, Walkabout Foundation has donated 17,400 wheelchairs to people living in poverty in 25 countries. The foundation has also raised $1.642 million for research and founded two rehabilitation centers, one in India and the other in Kenya.
“Walkabout Foundation restores dignity, freedom and independence by providing wheelchairs and rehabilitation in the developing world and funding research to find a cure for paralysis,” the foundation’s homepage reads.
Free Wheelchair Mission
Free Wheelchair Mission is a faith-based organization that raises money for and donates wheelchairs to developing countries. It celebrates its official 20th anniversary this year.
The organization builds its own wheelchairs, which engineers have designed with cost efficiency and availability in mind. For example, the wheelchairs’ wheels are bicycle wheels because bicycles are a common mode of transportation almost anywhere in the world, making replacement parts for the wheelchairs easy to find and install.
In the 22 years since Founder and President Don Schoendorfer started producing and donating wheelchairs, Free Wheelchair Mission has donated more than 1.2 million wheelchairs in 94 countries.
Latter-day Saint Charities
Latter-day Saint (LDS) Charities is the humanitarian section of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Among its many charitable outreaches, it provides not only wheelchairs but also education on how to maintain and build wheelchairs so that community members can build their own wheelchairs.
In 2018 alone, LDS Charities made 53,800 wheelchair donations in 40 different countries. Volunteers work together with local governments and non-governmental groups to distribute wheelchairs and provide training for those receiving wheelchairs, their loved ones and their communities. Even with the COVID-19 pandemic, LDS Charities made 21,365 wheelchair donations in 2020.
Vulnerable groups receiving these wheelchair donations from the three organizations and others alike have their lives changed forever. The gift of mobility is irreplaceable and invaluable, improving the living conditions of those with physical disabilities.
– Holly Dorman