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This Week's Winning Story

 

65 Million wheelchairs needed globally

I am proud to say I am blessed and have now found the courage and strength to give the world mobility in the form of wheelchairs.

Now to begin.  Back on the 18th July 2009 I was sitting in the Mall in Brisbane, Australia and I noticed a little boy in an awkward, dated, old looking wheelchair. I thought why are wheelchairs still are so horrible looking these days? Prams, strollers, bikes even segways are so nice looking now, yet most wheelchairs are still so basic. 

So I thought I would design something so the wheelchairs would be more practical, fun and nice looking.  I still have the drawing I did on that day of what I was going to have an engineer  help build, not knowing anything at all about wheelchairs. After some research I found a wheelchair just like I wanted to make, but get this, it cost $25,000. I thought that was shocking. Just over a year later I know so much more. 

My focus has turned from having a good looking wheelchair to providing wheelchairs correctly made, and raising awareness of the needs of the riders.  I am now on a mission after finding that there are over 65 million people globally actually needing a wheelchair, based on the World Health Organisation (WHO) statistics.  I launched a website Join Helen in May 2010 and you can look at my discoveries there if you wish. As far as miracles go I feel this is now my purpose and I am so passionate about giving the world mobility. 

I went to Spain to do part of the Camino walk. I was soul searching and sharing the fact that we need so many wheelchairs. On the way home from Spain, sitting next to me were three lovely angels from Papua New Guinea (PNG), Joachim, Raphael and Andrew. I asked them what the wheelchair situation was like in PNG and they told me it is pretty shocking actually.  I feel the universe is on a weekly and sometimes daily plan, giving me so many directions to help me raise awareness. 

I told these three lovely angels that I was on a mission to change the shortage of wheelchairs and they were so excited that we planned to stay in touch and see how we could work together to help their people of PNG.  I am proud to say that over the Christmas break 2010, I have now been invited by the locals of PNG to visit their country and I will be able to see for myself what we need to do.

Based on WHO statistics there are over 50,000 wheelchairs needed in PNG, Australia’s closest neighbour.  I now have a plan as to how we can help change this.  I was having doubts about what I was doing earlier this year and another sign came from somewhere, another miracle you might say.

Most of my friends and colleagues at my work know I am on this mission. A wonderful angel from work, Sue called me on a Friday night as I was sitting thinking about what am I doing. Sue said to turn on the television quickly as there was a documentary about wheelchairs. It was about a group helping in Haiti called Whirlwind wheelchairs and they are part of the University of San Francisco. The following Monday I contacted this group and told them what I was doing.  We kept in touch to see how we could work together and after I launched my website in May 10, the University of San Francisco invited me to their campus in July where I  test rode one of their Rough Rider wheelchairs. They are perfect for rough terrain such as PNG and our Australian outback. You can see them at Whirlwind Wheelchair

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The guys at the university, Ralph (the founder), Keoke, Marc, Matt, Bob, Peter and Aaron were so great to me. They shared what they are doing and I learnt so much. It is not just giving a wheelchair to someone, it is about providing the correctly fitted wheelchair for the persons condition.  If you give the wrong size, shape etc. it could do damage, such a pressure sores, which can lead to blood poising and pain.  We planned for us to all meet up in Indonesia late this year so we could see a sustainable, operating model for wheelchair provision really working and to go to see a local wheelchair manufacturing company.

I met up with the men in Indonesia early in November to go to a wheelchair manufacture plant where the chairs are made, and made for a very reasonable price when bought in bulk. In Indonesia we also visited the United Cerebral Palsy - Wheels for Humanity (Indonesia) site at Yogyakarta.  Wheels for Humanity   I am proud to have met Michael, a wonderful young man heading up their wheelchair project. 

Michael has a sustainable, operating model for providing wheelchairs and nearly all their staff is local, some in wheelchairs. They were provided with a large area within a local university where they store the completed wheelchairs and then they have a local social worker who is in a wheelchair herself, the gorgeous angel, Sri, who goes out to visit children needing a wheelchair. They have modified Sri’s motorcycle so it has a side cart on it and she wheels up a little ramp and sits in her wheelchair.  A photo will soon be up on my website.  

It is so inspiring to see her ride around on this motorbike and in her wheelchair. It also gives other children and their families hope that they  may be able do the same and get out and about and not just be stuck on the ground, or in a bed, and never go anywhere. 
There are over 6 million children in Indonesia needing wheelchairs. Indonesia is a frequent holiday destination for Australians, but how many Aussies know that fact?

I am proud to be associated with Whirlwind wheelchairs who have also put me in touch with Motivation Australia Motivation Australia who provide correct training and delivery of wheelchairs globally.  I have learnt so much from Kylie at Motivation and am in full support of helping raise awareness for what they are doing and am now on a mission to raise funds to support their work.

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I will be meeting up with Kylie's connections in PNG also to see how we can all work together.  I feel there are so many groups doing similar things that if we collaborate a little more we can be more efficient and effective as we are all wanting to give people a new life by providing the correct wheelchair. I am a connector and collaborator and my role is to bring us all together.  

I was told by my PNG friends that in their village they still need toilets and things for their school. I will see for myself and as I am also now connected with a Rotary group on the Gold Coast who may be able to help us.I am also proud to say that the wonderful Robina Rotary Group in Australia are now supporting the wheelchair project and if you would like to donate or get involved and help us, please contact us via Join Helen or email helen@joinhelen.com

Only today I was at my favourite pizza restaurant in Brisbane and met another person working in PNG.  She offered to see if her group could possibly help us. I will be contacting them tomorrow.  AMAZING!I

Now I have a plan. Over the coming weeks I will be contacting many organisations to ask them to become involved with our work.  I spoke with some senior people at my local Woolworths store last week and they were not aware that so many people need a wheelchair globally. They said they would have their right people to contact me early next week, their community managers in each state. I so hope they do. 

So many other amazing things have happened over the last year, miracles everywhere. You can see more on my website

 Love
Helen Edwards
Brisbane, Australia




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