Catalyst Project

Catalyst Project

Facilitating wheelchair services through faith-based hospitals in low-resource countries.

People often use New Year’s Eve and the following days as a chance to re-evaluate and perhaps make some changes in their lives.  There are jokes based upon resolutions that last a few days and then are forgotten.  Nevertheless, I think the desire to see how things went and determine what changes may be necessary is a good thing.  I’ve been thinking about that with the Assistive Technology Catalyst Project. This coming June, we will have been working at this for two years, and it’s time to look back and then think about the future.

Our stated goal is to link mission hospitals to the resources they’ll need to enable them to care for those with disabilities.  This includes links to wheelchair supplies, links to training for staff, and links to training for chaplains.  Many people with disabilities express spiritual pain and isolation, saying things like, “They said I was a curse,” and “No one wants to be with me.”

Our initial focus was with Kenya because of Karen’s close relationship with both the place and the people. Over the last year and a half, our key partner there has been Bethany Kids, BK has hired and trained three staff focused on wheelchair provision. We were able to facilitate links between Bethany Kids and AT2030, a large research project out of London England, which has provided training to new staff and included them in a trial of 3D printing and early mobility devices. We were able to facilitate links between Bethany Kids and Free Wheelchair Mission which has provided over 1000 wheelchairs and additional training for staff.  We were able to facilitate a link between BethanyKids and CLASP, and also Hoggi, for wheelchairs.  We have also been facilitating outreach through Tenwek Hospital, AIC Kajiado, Walkabout and Metropolitan Sanctuary with links to wheelchairs and training. We were able to facilitate two seminars that brought in experts to collaborate in hands-on learning with local therapists from all five organizations. 

Using video to enable those we work with to tell their story has been a key part of what we do.  That’s been the area of my own contribution.  Check out the two-minute videos up on the video part of our web page.  It would be great if you could watch a couple and leave comments. 

Our goals are broader than Kenya.  Interactions with mission hospitals are broadening from Kenya to include other countries. We’ve been able to facilitate the startup of a program at Al Germaniyya hospital in Aswan, Egypt in partnership with a Hawthorn Gospel Church in New Jersey. Conversations about steps to initiate outreach are underway with Soddo Hospital in Ethiopia and CEML Hospital in Angola.  We’ve found that trips to visit hospitals are essential to spark key meetings, to encourage staff and facilitate training. 

One of our goals is to raise awareness in the faith-based medical community around the world.  Karen has been working with Joni and friends to that end. God opened doors for Karen to present with Kimi Archer from Joni and Friends at the Continuing Medical and Dental Education conference in Thailand to doctors working in low-resource countries across Asia and Africa.  Then at the summit meeting for mission executives at the SIM headquarters, she was one of the keynote speakers with Chris Hillesheim with Joni and Friends.

Another goal is to raise awareness with the secular academic community which is behind many global initiatives. To that end, Karen presented to the World Health Organization Global Rehabilitation and Assistive Technology Consultation in Geneva last August. She also presented at the annual meetings of the International Seating Symposium and the Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology Society.

Looking forward, we need wisdom to know when on-line interaction is adequate, and when travel to meet face to face with people is necessary.  Shipping of wheelchairs from the manufacturer to port and then from the port to the hospital is both difficult and expensive.  There is an urgent need to find ways to facilitate a steady stream of income for mission hospitals wanting to get started.  We would like to see local churches here and overseas get involved. For example, we’d love to see seminars using material developed by Joni and Friends.  The idea is to open effective doors to get the word out to families struggling with disability. We’d like to see them know that they are not alone, that there is real hope with medical and spiritual help.

So please, when you think about us, pray that we will be wise in the new year.  Thanks for partnering with us and praying for us.  Click here if you’d like to partner