Changed lives

I joined my colleagues around dinner time, straight in from the airport of Kinshasa. I arrived just in time to say hi and bye to two physical therapists from Zimbabwe and Kenya who had accompanied the advanced training in wheelchair fitting. They were leaving, tired and content. I would have been too if I had so directly changed the lives of several families with severely disabled children and some adults as well by providing them with a chair with all the supports to let that would allow them to participate a little more in ordinary life.  One boy of about 9 with cerebral palsy spent most of his waking hours in a room; and because he couldn’t sit without support he would squirm on the floor and look at the ceiling. When his mother left the house she put him on his back, as if he was still a baby. I watched her with the boy on her back, his movements uncontrolled and jerky – but she remained still and straight. It was another one of those moments where I counted all my blessings.

I learned from my colleagues who did the training that the mother rarely took him out as she was fearful of the comments, gossip and disdain from her neighbors. He was lucky that he had been selected to be fitted with a chair – a win-win arrangement for all: the students got to practice their skills and the boy and his family would be able to experience a more normal life.

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