S. African Wheelchair Project

S. Africa wheelchair donation & Nick Vrijland (1)

As the result of a Matching Grant application submitted by the Cranleigh Club to Rotary International in August 2011, the sum of £23,058 was paid over to the Wheelchair Foundation UK. This eventually resulted in 280 new, all-terrain wheelchairs and spares being shipped to South Africa for distribution among poor, disabled people.

The District 9350 Cape Town Wheelchair Committee managed the safe receipt and secure storage of the wheelchairs on arrival and arranged all subsequent transportation to the distribution locations. Clubs in the District had previously applied in advance to the Committee for an allocation, after having assessed the applicants. The local Rotary Clubs organised the handover ceremonies.

All of the wheelchairs were distributed to those in need over a period of 6 weeks. Three Rotarians from the UK visited South Africa between 18th and 28th January 2012 to represent the Rotary Club of Cranleigh. They were able to take part in handover ceremonies to groups of people as well as individuals in Bellville, Helderberg, Somerset West, Malmesbury, Strand, Durbanville and Franschoek, as well as a community programme in a township called Wesbank.

S. Africa wheelchair donation (Somerset West)

The South African government has been trying to satisfy the need for wheelchairs, but disabled people often  have to wait many years for help to arrive. This donation has brought many benefits to the individuals, their families and communities.

With their improved mobility, the recipients have been able to regain a measure of independence which they never had before. The burden of caring for the physically challenged has been lightened on the other family/community members, enabling them to attend to other daily chores and spend more time on the family’s other needs. The disabled will also be able to gain more respect and become valued citizens through improved education and opportunities for self-sufficiency. As a by-product,  Rotary’s profile in the community has been raised, with a welcome being shown in areas that had previously been considered no-go areas.

S. Africa Wheelchair plaque

"The handing over of the wheelchairs was something very special to us," said Nick Vrijland, who first proposed the involvement of the Rotary Club of Cranleigh in this ambitious project. (Nick is an honorary member of the Cranleigh Club and was made a Paul Harris Fellow for his work in the local community.)

"The smiles and gratefulness of those who were given the freedom to move under their own steam will be a long-lasting memory."