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300 wheelchairs for the needy

Monday, July 04, 2011    

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THE Rotary Club of St Andrew is inviting members of the public with debilitating injuries and disabilities to apply for wheelchairs it has in its possession.

The club has 300 manually-operated chairs in all sizes which are suitable for amputees, polio victims, gunshot victims and the elderly. Hospitals, childen's homes, disabilities and paraplegic foundations are also urged to apply.

Chairman of the club's wheelchair committee, Lloyd Eubank-Green told the Sunday Observer that applicants have to prove their age, the extent of injury or disability, and will have to agree to have their photographs taken in the wheelchair once they are approved to receive one.

"We've been bringing in containers to Jamaica every year to supply the needy with wheelchairs for nine years. This year, when we distribute the 405 which we brought in — of which we have 300 left — we would have distributed 1,700 wheelchairs (over the nine years) at a cost of J$68 million," he said.

A manual wheelchair costs in the region of $40,000, but if accessed through the Rotary Club, it can be had at virtually no cost to the user.

Primarily through corporate sponsorships, the club raises in the region of US$45,000 each year to import and clear a container of about 280 chairs. It's a heavy pricetag, but the benefits to the needy are worth it, said Eubank-Green.

"When you have a person locked up in a room in darkness and you give that person a wheelchair, that person has now got mobility and can come into the light with dignity," he said.

The club's wheelchair committee was started in 2002 out of circumstances the year before which put Eubank-Green in touch with the Rotarian's Wheelchair Foundation in the United States.

A Rotarian from New Jersey, while on a visit to the island, voiced his desire to raise funds and donate six wheelchairs to the Immaculate Conception convent and 48 to the Missionaries of the Poor. Eubank-Green was drafted as the local point man and when he became club president in 2002, turned the venture into a club project. The Foundation later sought him out to help distribute a container of chairs and the two entities have been working together since.

The Foundation has distributed over one million wheelchairs in over 150 countries, including Jamaica and Haiti, since it was set up.

Persons in need may contact Eubank-Green at 833-6594.

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