Crutches 4 Africa

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Planes, Trains, Automobiles. and Boats
My first mistake was to think that once the ship had that was transporting our container to Africa had sailed, that I could go ahead and buy plane tickets! What I didn't plan on was that our container would be lost in Durban, South Africa! It had to be off loaded there due to a "serious listing" (is this a nice way to say "sinking"?) of our transporting ship.
No one seemed to know just where our container was, so while we waited in Mombasa, Kenya, for information about our shipment of crutches, canes, walkers and wheelchairs, we spent our time meeting with top level contacts that will certainly make future shipments much easier!
After hearing several different arrival dates for our container, none of them very encouraging, we got a call one Thursday that it would be arriving the next day! Eight days later ( and I'm told that's "speedy"!) we had our container and unloaded it straight away and began distribution the following day.
We delivered dozens of mobility devices to a disability group on the south coast of Kenya, a school for the disabled in Mombasa, where parents often carried their children to school on their backs, a home for the elderly (Little Sisters of the Poor) and a disability group in Mombasa.
Several thousand pounds were then shipped by rail to Nairobi where everything was loaded onto a large delivery truck. We then rolled west out into the Rift valley area of Kenya and distributed there. On the first morning in the Rift we experienced a giraffe stampede! Sixty plus animals galloped by as we crouched, slack jawed, watching from the cover of some skimpy bushes!
We then went north to Nakuru and renewed contact with the Rotary club there. Together we distributed mobility devices and made plans for future, joint involvement in this needed work.
Next was a large distribution in Kisumu. Previous contact with a disability group there saw the fulfillment to bring hundreds of devices to the people affiliated with this group.
West of Kisumu we slowly made our way west over incredibly rough roads, to Sigomre, Kenya. Here, we were welcomed by the friends and colleagues of Carol Carper (Conifer Rotary Club). Carol has been doing amazing work in this part of Kenya and kindly paved the way for us to step in and do a distribution at the near by Uluthe dispensary. This dispensary is not readily accessible by any stretch of the imagination but provides remarkable care for people in this remote area.
I had the opportunity to address a crowd of 1200+ at a worship service on that Sunday and invited those in need to come to the dispensary on the following Tuesday for distribution of mobility devices(md's). On Monday, the md's were transported by hand cart out to the dispensary. Tuesday morning came and we went by motorcycle taxi to the dispensary and found dozens of people waiting patiently for us. This kind of direct distribution is heart griping! Sticks, used for "hop walking", and heavy, often broken old wooden crutches were left behind that day as a testament to what we had given away. People who had crawled in, moved out with new dignity and hope!
We then attempted to do what we had been told was "impossible", transferring our remaining 100 pair of crutches into Uganda. Overcoming the suspicions of the customs officials that were concerned we were there to make a profit from these gifted items to the disabled people of Uganda, took a mere 27 hours! Our distribution in the Tororo district took us deep into the bush, and deep into the mud! In a torrential rain, ten men and a hoard of very wet children pushed us and our taxi/van, a harrowing 1.5 kilometers up a hill (backwards!) and kept us from being hopelessly stuck in the gumbo mud of Mt. Elgon. (Side note; this is the same area where several villages were swept away this past winter in mud slides , work continues to recover some of the bodies still buried in the mud.) At another distribution site just outside Tororo, I was amazed to have an even dozen Ugandan soldiers, recovering from serious leg wounds received while fighting rebels in northwest Uganda, come to us for needed mobility devices! Having served their country, they had been abandoned when they needed these devices!
We retained a final dozen pairs of crutches to give away as we made our way to Kampala, the capital of Uganda. Two went to children at an orphanage, another, to a man along side the road. The final 9 pair went to a Muslim friend to be given out to people from his Mosque. What better way to make friends than with a gift?
And so we continue with our efforts to collect and distribute more. For truly we have seen what gratitude looks like in the faces of the recipients. We have also seen the despair in the eyes of those at the end of the line, when we had no more, at least this time.
Thanks to all of you who have lent us a hand, for your help has reached around the world!
Rotarian David Talbot
Mountain Foothills Rotary Club, Evergreen, Colorado
District 5450