Yesterday was nothing short of ironic. I woke up in the morning at 6:15AM to my friend yelling “We made our goal! We can get wheelchairs!”. On a normal day, waking up to someone yelling is nothing short of unpleasant and can determine how your day will go. Well, this was the exact opposite. I woke up with a big grin on my face and butterflies in my stomach. I can’t believe we did it...I can’t believe YOU did it! We set off to school smiling ear to ear eager to tell the students and staff the good news! Everyone was absolutely thrilled, especially our staff that transports ;) because this means no more breaking backs (just cracking them) to push these inadequate chairs through the unforgiving Kibera terrain.
It wasn't 10 minutes of us leaving the slum and approaching our matatu ride home I looked down at my phone and had several missed called from my staff. I immediately called back and got news, that if were only a couple days earlier would have been very problematic, that one of our students wheelchairs wheels broke off completely during her transport home. We put our heads together to deal with the situation and playing a little game of musical chairs Kibera style and everyone got home safely. Once we knew everyone was ok and made it home, we had a little chuckle. What are the odds that the day one of our wheelchairs went out on us was the same day we found out that we had met our goal to purchase new wheelchairs. Oh the irony. The universe is funny like that.
This just shows that it doesn't matter how nice the ride, without maintenance anything can fall apart. Elizabeth's wheelchair was one donated many years ago from a volunteer who purchased it from APDK. It has been quite the workhorse for several years but, come to find out, has had zero maintenance. Like any nice car, without annual scheduled maintenance, things will break down in time. Especially when traveling daily through a place like Kibera. It would be like taking your brand new Audi off roading daily. Everything has its breaking point. So this is why we are so thankful to have been able to see this as potential problem and raise funds for maintenance fees for each wheelchair. This is a true testament to New Beginnings emphasis on foresight as we are seeking solutions, not temporary fixes. We were relieved to know that she would be rollin in style in no time and luckily I had been in contact with APDK (The Association for the Physically Disabled of Kenya) earlier in the week about purchasing more of their wheelchairs. So I called them immediately and scheduled to bring in the wheelchair the next day for repair.
When we arrived at APDK with our mangled wheelchair, we were invited in with open arms. We were immediately invited into share tea. We were walked into their back room where we sat at a table drinking tea with about 15 of APDK’s workers. They were all so lovely and so interested in our project. These would be the men custom making the three wheelchairs for our students. It was such a pleasure to have this personal experience with them and knowing that nothing but love (and maybe a little bit of metal and rubber) would be going into the wheels that would transport our kids safely everyday.
We then were able to arrange for a physiotherapist to come to our school the following day to fit and gather measurements on each student for a chair. Starting next monday, all the men we had tea with would be hard at work creating these beautiful masterpieces for our students. Knowing we would be heading back to the states in about a week, APDK said they would work their very hardest to get the chairs done before we leave. What a gift that would be! We would love to show you all the difference you have made in not just our students lives, but in our staff’s who struggle daily with this commute, our students families, and of course, New Beginnings.