The nature of a catalyst is to link things to spark change. That's what the Assistive Technology Catalyst Project is all about. Assistive technology (AT) is any kind of device that enables participation -- think wheelchairs, hearing aids, glasses, etc. Currently we are primarily focusing on linking resources for wheelchair provision to the mission hospitals that provide much of the functional medical care in many low-resource countries.
AT Catalyst makes connections between AT manufacturers, distributors, training programs, and funders to enable faith-based health providers to bring help and hope to adults and children with special needs.
The Compelling Need
Disability is often seen as a curse, and disabled people feel isolated. Families of people with disabilities often feel ashamed -- as if they had done something wrong. Disabled people feel isolated and rejected. When disabled children in such cultures grow too large to be carried, they are frequently left on the floor in a back room of their dwelling or sent out to beg on the streets.
Jesus said, "Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me" (Matthew 25:40).
You can show that you care. You can help bring life-changing hope to a disabled person. There are resources, but funding is needed to link those resources to those who can provide them properly and share hope.
Share a chair
Partnering with us, you can leverage resources to respond to the need for functional wheelchairs. The World Health Organization says "An estimated 1% of the world's population, or just over 65 million people, need a wheelchair. In most developing countries, few of those who need wheelchairs have access." With an appropriate wheelchair, a disabled person can attend school and can participate in family and community events.
There are great not-for-profit organizations that make wheelchairs intended for use in low-resource settings. These wheelchairs are much more affordable than wheelchairs provided in North America and Europe. They are also intended to be durable and appropriate for use in low-resource settings. However, most of these organizations need someone to purchase their chairs. Between $250 and $400 USD will purchase one of these chairs depending on the type. Feel free to contact us for details if you'd like more specific information. We have been doing studies on the effectiveness of these wheelchairs, and consequently know many of the key players well (see research page). One type of wheelchair definitely does not suit all users!
Get it there
Shipping is a very significant barrier for the faith-based health providers with whom we work. In many countries, importing containers is getting more and more difficult and expensive. If we have, for example, tied into a grant or a method to have wheelchairs paid for, or even paid for and shipped to port, bringing them through customs and shipping to location has a significant cost.
Even in Europe and North America, many wheelchair parts are made in China and shipped to assembly locations. Ideally, the same could be done in lower resource settings. Ideally high-quality wheelchairs could be assembled locally. However, this takes planning and start-up funds. Plans are beginning in several locations. Partnering to provide resources is a very effective way to build lasting change.
With local care
Currently many mission hospitals have no effective wheelchair supply and those they treat that will need wheelchairs are left without help, isolated and at risk of infection and early death. Providing hope and help to those living with chronic disability echoes the work of Jesus and can transform families and communities.
The World Health Organization has published guidelines indicating that wheelchairs should be provided where there is local care. In the many countries where mission hospitals are key health care providers, they would be the best partners. Yet links need to be made to enable this. A business plan is needed to put in place local staff trained to provide wheelchairs, and mentors who are themselves disabled to work alongside. Once the plan is in place, there are training programs available, and there may be grant funding.
Wheelchairs also need to be fitted to individual users, and wheelchair users need continued, lifelong help from medical professionals and technicians. This help is especially important for growing children.
Where HOPE is shared
Mayo Clinic and many secular researchers indicate that well-being is a lot more than just physical. Care for the whole person including spiritual care is needed. Check out the short video on Francesca's story. Although she was dealing with physical disabilities and pain, she expressed social and spiritual pain first and found that most difficult. If people with special needs feel that they are cursed, or are a curse to their family, simply providing assistive technology doesn't heal the deepest pain. The faith-based health providers we work with are already committed to whole person wellness. Our goal is to help to link them to existing resources and training specific to working with those with special needs. For example, there is training for pastors and chaplains through Joni and Friends, and training for parents and families through the London School of Tropical Medicine. This involves resources to set up seminars to include chaplains, church leaders and community in training seminars.
Will you join us in being a catalyst for hope? Please consider joining our support team and giving to the ATCatalyst project.