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What a difference a wheelchair makes!

We have had a great story from Jonah Sialamano, our disability expert in Zambia. Jonah writes:

Bertha Hakajika, Female aged 09 of Village Kazingwe, Gonde area, Monze District: She has a diagnosis of Cerebral, with delayed developmental milestones. She has difficulties with sitting, standing, walking and carrying out day to day activities expected for her age.

She is being kept by her grandmother in Kazinwe village. Her father deserted her after seeing that she was disabled. The father is not known exactly where he is but it is just generalized that he is in Livingstone. As it is known in Zambia, there are few men who accept disabled children as their step daughter or son when mothers of disabled children are getting married to them. And so, when mothers opt for marriage, they leave their children with their relatives especially grandmothers. So is the case with Bertha. The mother got married and went to settle in Luapula Province where the current husband got a job.

The grandmother takes Bertha to St John of God Child Development Centre, a Holy Family programme where children with cerebral palsy and other Allied Conditions are taken for physiotherapy exercise.
Kazingwe Village is about 13km along Livingstone, southern part of Monze and about 3 km off Livinstone Road west of Monze.

Depending on the days of appointment for physio sessions, the grand mother to Bertha lifts her from the village to the road side to hike for lifts (Vehicles) to Monze Town. When they reach Monze Town, if they have money, they book a Taxi and if they don’t have money, the grand mother has to walk from Town to the Physio centre about 2 Km while carry Bertha in her hands or at her back as another Zambian way of lifting children.

As years goes on, Bertha started growing and the grandmother’s strengths to lift her started reducing due to age. When St John of God Child development Center referred her to HHZ for a wheelchair aid, she was received by the Charity Coordinator and upon interviewing her about the brief history on the child she said, “if there was no wheelchair to help my grand daughter and to easy my mobility aid when taking her to Monze for physiotherapy, I was going to stop bringing her because am aging and I cant lift her any more as she is also growing. Thank you to HHI”.

The wheelchair will enable the beneficiary to continue going for physiotherapy. The wheelchair will also make Bertha’s grandmother of lifting her as she will be easily pushed. The will wheelchair will also be to fold when boarding a vehicle. When going to church, Bertha will also be enjoying worship and praise as she used to remain at the village when others have gone to church. Bertha will also be interacting with friends within the village as friends will be coming to play with her and push her around. Bertha will also enjoy palying with the doll and cover herself with head sock from Chris Byrne during this HHZ recent visit with Edmund Plummer.

Cerebral Palsy is a range of neuromuscular disorders caused by injury to an infant’s brain sustained during late pregnancy, birth, or any time during the first two years of life. People with cerebral palsy have a wide range of difficulties, from a clumsy walk to an inability to speak or swallow, caused by faulty messages sent from the brain to the muscles.

Each year in Zambia, many babies develop cerebral palsy and the affected ones mainly are families cycled with poverty and because of lack of income and resources to support their C.P children, mothers caring for children with disability experience a number of challenges among them social isolation and marital problems, as well as negative attitudes from family, friends, community members and health care professionals in some cases. The physical environment created access challenges because of a lack of sidewalks, ramps, functioning lifts and small indoor spaces. Above all, the mothers are restricted to be at home (villages and or compounds) to look after the disabled child. This means that many parents are unable to do their activities for their living like farming and business. Some they stop work to concentrate on taking care of their children. While the care is provided to the child, activities that brings in income is affected hence more poverty strikes. In rural areas, some disabled children are left alone at home while the parents go to do farming until when they come back from the field that’s when the children can have the attention. The children who can wake up on their own, flies surround their faces and land on them while the child struggles with little shaking the head to chase the flies.

The wheelchair was funded by a generous grant from the Women’s World Day of Prayer.

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