(Port-au-Prince, Haiti) – The Canadian Wheelchair Foundation/Fondation Chaise Roulante Canada (CWF), a Global Wheelchair Program partner, was able to facilitate the distribution of 1,000 wheelchairs to persons left with serious physical injuries due to the earthquake that struck Haiti on January 12, 2010. The Knights of Columbus committed to sponsoring the wheelchairs within days of the earthquake and since then have raised an additional $500,000 for other relief efforts.
The need for wheelchairs in Haiti cannot be underestimated. Prior to the earthquake, the country was home to an estimated 800,000 people with disabilities. The quake itself produced an estimated additional 2,000 to 4,000 instant amputees, with another 30 to 100 amputations per day, per hospital, being performed in the days following. All wheelchairs delivered by the Global Wheelchair Program in Haiti feature bright red strong powder-coated finish, specifically designed to function in rougher terrain, and would sell for over $600 each in Canada.
Supreme Knight Carl Anderson understands this need, stating, “though time has dimmed the memory of the tragic earthquake in Haiti for many who live elsewhere, the physical suffering of those injured in the earthquake and here in Port-au-Prince continues in a very real way. We are grateful for the opportunity to give the gift of mobility to those who need it most, and who otherwise would be condemned to lives of isolation and hopelessness.”
Christiana Flessner, Executive Director of the Canadian Wheelchair Foundation, was moved by the reception the volunteers received, and said “the people of Haiti have such a resilient spirit. Their smiles and gratefulness to be given the gift of mobility was extremely touching to us and to all the dedicated volunteer aid workers from across North America at the Field Hospital.”
Gérard Cassemajor, First Secretary of the Haitian Embassy in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, expressed his government’s appreciation of this generous gift. “We wished that more people in the world knew how easy it is to have such a positive impact on the lives of the people of Haiti. We hope that this kind of help will continue for many years to come.”
In addition to the effort in Haiti, the CWF has distributed over 23,000 wheelchairs over the past six years, including missions to Afghanistan and Cuba. The mobility wheelchairs provide makes them an important tool of self-reliance. In gaining mobility, persons with disabilities are given an opportunity to integrate themselves into society; by attending school, going to work, and becoming a part of the community. In addressing the needs of the disabled community, and thereby acknowledging their value as citizens, CWF promotes accessibility and integration.
The Canadian Wheelchair Foundation is an independent Canadian registered charity with the goal to deliver brand new, free wheelchairs to persons with physical disabilities throughout the world who are without mobility or the means to acquire a wheelchair. With a strong focus on developing and newly industrialized states, the Canadian Wheelchair Foundation continues to change the lives of people and communities with a gift that extends hope, dignity, opportunity and independence to all.