Changing wheels on chairs
What do I do if my child needs a wheelchair? It used to be simple, just come to the wheelchair workshop to get fitted for a wheelchair adaptation. Yes, the child needs to come in to be measured and diagnosed by our therapist. We want to make sure the wheelchair is adapted and effectively serves the child. That is the process used to distribute responsibly over 2000 wheelchairs since the year 2000.
But now, we are desperately searching with others for wheelchairs. Several organizations are connected in this work to find ways that we can import wheelchairs for those in need. The problem is that we are not permitted to receive containers now. . You see, there are no wheelchairs manufactured here in Nicaragua, and we need to adapt used-wheelchairs. All wheelchairs are imported from other countries. But the problem is even larger. The wheelchairs that we need are specialized wheelchairs. We need wheelchairs for paralyzed children, wheelchairs that recline, wheelchairs with neck, shoulder, and head support, wheelchairs with extra leg and feet support.
Three years into this crisis, we have not given up. We still get the occasional wheelchair returned, which we then adapt for another person but we have not received new wheelchairs (new even if they are used) When people received a wheelchair in the past, they signed a promise to return them when they no longer need them. We still have wheelchair parts that keep our staff busy maintaining wheelchairs. People come in for regular checkups on their wheelchairs, but if they have out-grown their wheelchair, we do not have a replacement. Our hope has taken a hard turn with COVID for getting a container across the borders with specialized wheelchairs. So we continue searching for a solution in a double crisis.
We are making bath chairs, we are working on other mobility and therapy aids, and we keep in contact with the people who need wheelchairs. We have turned our skills to accessibility; by installing handrails or working with engineers to make the bathrooms more accessible with ramps that are with the correct inclination. We are working on our disability-accessible park. We have contacts all over the world, but if the borders are closed; and containers are not permitted, it does not make any difference. The need for mobility remains for children in Nicaragua, and we are meeting it as best we can. We have a team of young men who never tire, continuing to work on getting mobility to others, even if it is not with a specialized wheelchair, for the moment. The only wheelchairs that are entering the country are standard wheelchairs for adults, and their distribution is controlled.
As long as people lack mobility, we will keep trying to find a way for them to become mobile. The wheelchair workshop in Matagalpa, Nicaragua, is working during this pandemic to find creative solutions. Your support in 2020 has been a tremendous gift to those in need of mobility aids, together we are going to make those mobility dreams come true.