14 September 2012
Wheels for the World distribute wheelchairs to Paralympic athletes
For Christian charity Through the Roof, the Paralympics offered a unique opportunity to give much needed wheelchairs to international athletes.
Wheels for the World is Through the Roof's campaign which distributes wheelchairs and other equipment throughout the world.
It is estimated that 20-30 million disabled people around the world are in need of wheelchairs, so the charity restores old wheelchairs and distributes them in countries such as Kenya, Romania and Haiti.
During the Paralympics, Wheels for the World set up camp in St John's Church in Stratford to distribute and fix the wheelchairs of the world's Paralympic athletes.
Many athletes didn't already own their own wheelchairs and were sharing or borrowing them, so they lacked the independence needed to access work and training.
The work of Wheels for the World ensured that for many athletes this would no longer be the case.
Glenda Pike, the co-ordinator of the program explained: "Several beneficiaries of our Paralympic outreach usually crawl along the ground in their home country.
"Our wheelchairs and mobility aids provide a life-changing experience and gives dignity, enables independence and offers many opportunities to be involved in their local church and community life. We have seen children go to school for the first time, others can move outside to see the sunshine for the first time in years; more excitingly many disabled people or families find faith in Jesus."
Take Mary for example, a shot-put, discus and javelin thrower from Kenya, disabled after contacting polio at the age of three. In spite of winning a silver medal in Beijing, she was struggling to get to training as she was dependent on inconsistent transportation.. Now though, her new wheelchair means she can get to work and coaching much more easily.
It wasn't just athletes who benefited from Wheels for the World's presence at the Paralympics.
In two days they assessed 53 people including athletes, medical staff, team leaders, admin staff and even a couple of chefs, from a total of 26 countries.
They gave out chairs, crutches and rollators, and repaired several damaged chairs.
The team found that the experience was very different to their usual work of having chairs refurbished by prisoners in HMP Parkhurst, then distributing them to developing countries, but the effect was very much the same.
Tim Wood, the CEO of Through the Roof, said: "Every single person is made in God's image and has infinite value, yet disabled people are some of the poorest, most disadvantaged in the world.
"At Through the Roof our motivation is to see God glorified through those that society overlooks and our Wheels for the World programme demonstrates God's love through the gift of a wheelchair and a Bible."