A new awareness

This looks like my last trip of the year – there were 9 such trips, an annual average. I broke the trip in Nairobi which allowed me a good night sleep before getting on the plane to Addis where I join three colleagues for a week’s worth of work – a training of trainers for MSH’s leadership and management development program for teams from rehabilitation centers in 6 countries. The break turned out to be a bit longer than planned when the morning flight to Addis was cancellled, leaving me with the happy prospect of spending close to 10 hours at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport. These are the small frustrations that sometimes accompany my travel.

Our work in Addis is supported by USAID’s Democracy, Conflict and Humanitarian Assistance office. This office also supports the work with wheelchair providers I have been involved in over the last 2 years. It is a new focus area for MSH and one that has been intensely rewarding and humbling. It has made me aware of the plight of people with disabilities who live in low and middle income countries (and puts a 10 hour wait at the Kenya airport in prespective). Now, I pay attention to sidewalks, I look at entrances to toilets and I am seeing things I never noticed before: places that are not accessible to people who use wheelchairs – people who use transport wheelchairs for daily living, wheelchairs cobbled together from plastic garden chairs, bamboo poles and other inventive creations, all wrong for people who have to live in such things as these frames are not supporting their bodies and can create havoc on skin, bone and muscle development, especially in young children.

I will be travelling for this agenda more in the coming year and I am happy about my small contributions to making the world a little more manageable for people with disabilities and a little more aware about the accommodations we all have to make.

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