As I said in my previous blog, the amazing Robster and his team are funded by Friends of Sick Children to make wheelchairs specifically for children. He truly is the Father of Invention! With the most basic of equipment and supplies, together with the odd part cannibalised from broken adult chairs he fashions wheelchairs to suit individual children. No mass production here!
He proudly showed us round his production area, which desperately needs expanding to increase productivity AND be a safer working area. They’ve already set fire to the roof of one part with the metal cutting equipment. FOSCiM have helped with the plans but he needs more funds for the bricks and mortar.
Each wheelchair is fitted with bicycle wheels at the back and a simple large castor style wheel at the front. That way they can be easily and cheaply maintained by the families. The simple struts at the back allow friends small and large to push if the child cannot do it themselves. Apparently they work brilliantly on the rough terrain in the villages. Having seen some of the ‘roads’ around Blantyre they need to be the ultimate rugged off road buggy!
We saw a couple of chairs waiting to have further adaptations as the child had grown and needs had changed.
All this for MK70,000 – about £80 – peanuts in monetary terms by UK standards.
Robster had plenty of stories to share with us, here is one in his own words.
Brenda is the second born child in the family of five including parents. She is a nine year old girl slim and tall. She lives in Sumani village, T/A Nsomba at Manase Township in Blantyre. She was denied an access to schools which her parents visited giving a reason that it could be difficult to take care of her as she is not sitting.
Her diagnosis is Cerebral Palsy. The girl is incontinence of urine and stool. She is spastic and has Epilepsy and is on medication (Phenobab). She has good range of motion.
Before having a wheelchair the girl and the members of the family had a number of problems. Some of them are: The is regarded as a burden to the family as mum was not free to do other things such cash generating activities, she could always be forced to be around her. Her friends could leave her alone in the process of chatting. The mother used to carry her on her back and her young sister in front at the end of the day her mother could complain of back pain and to relieve she could take pain killers.
She is now well fitted with an appropriate wheelchair with appropriate pressure relieving cushion and a lap tray to encourage good sitting posture.
The mum is happy that now she will no longer be carrying her on the back to hospital and church. She has also promised to take her to school as the only thing that she has been lacking to qualify for a place at school is now found.
Brenda’s mum is very happy and she has the message to the donors, she said “I will be cursed if I leave without thanking the donors (Friends of Sick Children) for the long waiting Certificate given to my child for her to be accepted at school. They are really friends of sick Children, may the good Lord continue blessing them all.”