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The right wheelchairs for the right children

In Africa, children born with special needs or who require surgery at an early age are often seen as a burden to their families. When money is tight, a child may go without the surgery, rehabilitation, or assistive devices they need to achieve optimal physical and social quality of life.

In the early 1980’s, globe-trotting surgeon and medical missionary Dr. Dick Bransford began providing pediatric surgical care to children in Kenya. His work eventually led him to found BethanyKids, a community of surgeons, nurses, rehab professionals, business leaders, social workers, and teachers who today transform the lives of thousands of children Africa each year through pediatric surgery, rehabilitation, public education, and the training of African health professionals.

In recent years, the organization has also begun to provide post-surgical physiotherapy, occupational therapy, mobile clinics, and wheelchair services for those in need.

“One of our fastest growing and most innovative programs in the last number of years has been our assistive technology program,” says Peter Lublink, Executive Director of BethanyKids International. “Children in Kenya are often forced to use second-hand, poorly maintained and improperly sized wheelchairs. The goal of our program is to match them with wheelchairs that meet their unique needs.”

In the fall of 2020, the Gay Lea Foundation provided $19,350 to BethanyKids to transport 34 brand new, donated wheelchairs to Kenya, where they could be custom fitted by the organization’s assistive technology team and distributed to children living with disabilities. After several delays attributable to the COVID-19 pandemic, the shipment reached Africa in November 2021 and the wheelchairs were fitted and distributed at a school outside Nairobi in December.

“These wheelchairs have improved the lives of 34 children who were otherwise unable to get around,” says Lublink. “For them, it means the possibility of attending school and socializing with other children. For their caregivers, it means relief from having to carry their children wherever they go, even as teenagers. The Gay Lea Foundation helped make this possible. From the bottom of our hearts, thank you!”

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