WHEELCHAIR PROJECT, TAMALE
The project began in 1992 when myself and Fr. Diarmuid Sheehan M.Afr. realized that there was an urgent need to provide mobility and dignity to the many disabled people in the area who were either on crutches or crawling in the dust.
I had recently opened a new workshop to provide a service to the local church and to train young men in metal work and welding. This new workshop was ideal for making the tricycles. Fr. Diarmuid went to Accra to get plans from a similar project run by an SMA priest, Fr. Jean Thibault. Soon the first tricycle was produced in Tamale from water pipes and bicycle parts. Over the years this work has become the chief occupation of the workshop that now produces the tricycles in batches of twenty five or thirty, with over eight hundred now in use.
Most of the users are victims of polio and have lost the use of their lower limbs, though some have had accidents and are amputees. We had a case recently of a builder who was working in a trench when the walls caved in on him. He survived but suffered a broken back and even after treatment could no longer walk. He now gets about in one of our wheelchair tricycles.
Imagine if you can, the difference it makes to a person’s life when they are suddenly free to move about independently and with dignity after many years of being confined to the house or compound.
There is a woman in a village not far from Tamale who is paralyzed from the waist down and has a good arm and partial use of the other. She never left the compound for twenty years but when she received her tricycle and learnt how to handle it, there was no stopping her. Not only was she going about her own locality, but she was also loading her tricycle into market lorries and visiting neighbouring villages.
Many of the tricycle users are still young and as they now have mobility, they can go to school, no longer dependent on a family member to carry them there. Others have some sort of a trade and now with mobility, can extend their business. There are hairdressers, barbers, cobblers, radio repairers, wood carvers and even a couple of teachers. Once these people are used to the freedom and independence a tricycle gives them, they would be lost without one. So they take care to maintain them.
Author: Trevor Robinson, M.Afr.