Wheels in Joytown
It is really amazing to stop and think about all of the different individuals and organizations from around the world working alongside BethanyKids to serve children in need. To illustrate this, let’s zoom in on one facet of our ministry: rehabilitation.
Most of our rehabilitation takes place at Joytown Primary School for the Physically Disabled in Thika, Kenya. Many of the students at Joytown use wheelchairs to get around, which can be a challenge when dealing with rocky paths, dirt roads, and the public transportation many rely on when returning home on school breaks.
Students in Joytown enjoying a break between classes.
To meet this need, there are a number of incredible wheelchair manufacturers that specialize in developing wheelchairs for exactly these kinds of challenges. Manufacturers such as Motivation, with their Rough Terrain wheelchair, Hope Haven International, whose KidChair is manufactured and assembled by individuals with disabilities in Guatemala, and ROC Wheels, which provides jobs for inmates to manufacture their Rockit Chair.
Employee group photo, and assembling wheelchairs at Refugio de Esperanza in Guatemala.
But that’s not all. One of the challenges these manufacturers face is the need for on-the-ground testing and feedback on their wheelchairs. How do they know their designs are actually working for those who need them?
This is where the LeTourneau University Wheels Project comes in. Based out of Longview, Texas, the Wheels Project couples objective testing with on-site data collection. Manufacturers provide their wheelchairs to the Wheels Team for standardized testing on the LeTourneau campus, and also donate wheelchairs to Joytown students for on-the-ground, real-life testing. Students from the Wheels Team are then able to travel to Kenya, where they collect feedback from the wheelchair users and clinicians, and conduct tests that objectively measure wheelchair users’ mobility. This feedback is sent back to the manufacturers, who use it to perfect their designs.
The 2015-2016 Wheels Team.
Those on the Wheels team consider this a true win/win situation: “Manufacturers send wheelchairs to Kenya so they can get feedback through our field studies, and people in Kenya who need wheelchairs receive them. LeTourneau students make a global difference with their research as well as have a life-changing international experience.”
Inspiring, isn’t it? To realize that our rehabilitation ministry is just one piece of a beautifully interwoven network, where students in a small town in Kenya and a university in Texas can work together to provide invaluable feedback to global wheelchair manufacturers, and where those often left on the margins of society are able to build wheelchairs that will change the lives of children around the globe.
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