‘Gift of mobility’ brings smiles, tears of joy in Tobago

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Norma Nelson, 76, with her new wheelchair from the Tobago Rotary Club and Chair the Love organisation, at a wheelchair distribution at Lambeau Multi-Purpose Facility, Tobago on Sunday. – David Reid

Smiles were accompanied by tears of joy as over 40 wheelchairs were donated to the needy, in a simple ceremony at the Lambeau Community Centre on Sunday.

The generous donations were made possible through a collaboration of the Rotary and Rotaract Clubs of Tobago, the Felicity/Charlieville Rotary Club of Trinidad, and Chair the Love organisation of Longwood, Florida, USA.

Jasiyah Ibrahiim, president of the Rotary Club of Tobago, told Newsday, “It was very heart-warming to see the individuals finally received their wheelchairs, after months of planning and co-ordinating.”

Ibrahim said the initiative was more successful than they had imagined.

“We had a list of 40 people down for distribution, but we had a few walk-ins, which we accommodated. Among the recipients were amputees and people who were bedridden.”

In identifying deserving cases, the collaboration extended to other agencies.

“We got names from institutions such as the hospital, village councils, churches, division of social services, along with NGOs, nurses and caregivers,” Ibrahiim said.

“We also conducted home visits and other forms of verification, to ensure we were facilitating people really in need.

“There are a few more chairs available, so people in need can contact the rotary clubs.”

Some of the recipients expressed relief at receiving the wheelchairs.

Annabell Woods, 48, of Plymouth was elated. “I feel great, I was not expecting it, so it will be of great assistance. I had a chair before but it got damaged. I can now move around the house and go to my appointments in comfort,” she said.

Evtil McDougal, 80, of Plymouth receives a wheelchair donated by the Tobago Rotary Club in collaboration with Chair the Love and the Felicity/Charlieville Rotary Club, at Lambeau Multi-Purpose Facility, Tobago, Sunday. The chair was presented by Diana Maharaj, president-elect of Rotary Club, Felicity/Charlieville. – David Reid

Norma Wilson, 76, of Concordia, who has been ailing for some time, was grateful for the gift. “I am very thankful,” she said, “I used to go around in the yard, but I can hardly stand up now, because my feet and body are very weak.

“My family have to do everything for me and anywhere I go, I have to stay in the car. So I am really grateful.”

Lisa Francis, spokesperson for Felicity/Charlleville Rotary Club, was pleased with the work done by the Tobago Rotary family and said it was not the first occasion such initiative was done on the island.

“The Tobago Rotary Clubs were wonderful hosts,” she said. “The chairs were purchased by our organisation and our American partners, and the Tobago Rotary did an excellent job in co-ordinating and identifying the people in need.

“It is not a new initiative, we have networked with several international funding agencies for the past 17 years, in distributing over 4,000 wheelchairs throughout the Caribbean.

“This is our second distribution in Tobago. The first one was done two years ago. We want to continue the process, because there are many families who need wheelchairs and cannot afford to buy one.

“We actually distributed 55 wheelchairs in Cunupia, Trinidad yesterday.”

Chairs the Love representative Augie Byllott said it was the first time his organisation has partnered with a local NGO. He was happy with the project and pledged their ongoing support.

Bylott said, “It was an outstanding partnership. We raised the money to purchased the wheelchairs and our partners identified the people in need.

“We enjoy providing the gift of mobility to people who do not have the means nor assets to afford a wheelchair.

“It was a pleasure seeing the joy and emotions of the families who received the chairs. We look forward to working with the Trinidad and Tobago Rotary Clubs in the future.”