| kham aid home | Wheelchairs Delivered (Nov, 2000)
Status report (July, 2000) | Distribution in Danba (Nov, 2000) | What we spent (Dec, 2000)
Wheelchair Program in its Second Year (Sept, 2001)
Wheelchairs on the Way
|Pamela Logan and the incredible expanding wheelchair truck|
Oct 28, 2000
Dear Friends of the Kham Aid Foundation,
In the last 48 hours all the vital components of our wheelchair program have converged here in Chengdu, and the stage is set for us to deliver 90 wheelchairs to disabled people in Kham.
This week has been a nail-biter. It wasn't supposed to be, for the chairs were supposed to get here two weeks ago, plenty of time to finish the paperwork, clear customs, and get transferred into our hands. But a shipping delay meant that they didn't get here until five days ago. So the race began!
The chairs have been donated by an incredible organization, Wheelchairs for the World. This is a California nonprofit founded by businessman Kenneth Behring that sends wheelchairs to developing countries around the world. They even paid for shipping. What a great world it is that has angels like this in it!
On Tuesday, as we were finishing up the Customs paperwork, we ran into a major snag. Two documents that Kham Aid had submitted contained contradictory information about the value of the chairs. We had to move the process several steps backward in order to file a letter of explanation, and nobody could say how long this would take. With three people in Los Angeles preparing to board a plane for China in less than three days, I had to decide whether to scrub the mission, postpone it indefinitely, or try to guess how long the problem would take to fix. I stalled and procrastinated for 12 hours, then called the people in Los Angeles and told them we might be delayed three or four days. But that was just a bald-assed guess.
As it happened, they fixed the problem just 12 hours later, before anyone in L.A. had time to change their flights. On the front line filing customs forms were Ms. Zhu Rongli and her staff at the Sichuan Federation of Disabled Persons. For the sake of handicapped people who will benefit from this program, they have been working overtime for weeks to obtain tax-free status for our chairs. On Wednesday night, the last of our papers were stamped so that the chairs could be legally imported into China.
But we still had to actually retrieve the chairs, which took a whole day. It turns out that the Chengdu Customs house lies several hours outside of town. On Thursday night, at about 8pm, four trucks loaded with 240 boxed chairs rolled up to the Holy Love Foundation, our base of operations. (The Holy Love school for handicapped children is run by the energetic and visionary Mr. Meng Changshou, yet another partner in our coalition.)
On Friday morning, the three volunteer specialists arrived: David Richard, from Wheels for
Humanity, who was the one who convinced Wheelchairs for the World to take a chance and send some chairs to China for the first time. Also David Altman, a professional with wide knowledge and experience in assistive technology. And Judy McCalla, also of Wheels for Humanity.
On Friday afternoon the jet-lagged team was already fitting and adjusting chairs to several children at the Holy Love School.
Today, Saturday, we prepared lists, bought extra foam padding, and sorted chairs into five piles. Wheelchairs are heavy, the boxes are pretty darn big, and 240 is a lot of boxes! The heavy work was shared by a cheerful gang of Holy Love teachers and trainee physical therapists. At 3pm, the TV cameras arrived, and a lot of representatives of various branches of the Federation of Disabled Persons. Before an assembled audience of cameras, dignitaries, and disabled children, we distributed five piles of chairs as follows:
Official photo of one wheelchair recipient, Shu Juan, who has cerebral palsy and cannot sit up unassisted. She is shown here with her mother.
(1) Aba Tibetan Prefecture, 30
(2) LiangshanYi Prefecture, 30
(3) Neijiang Prefecture, 10
Zhiyang Prefecture, 10
Zigong Prefecture, 10
Leshan Prefecture, 10
Sichuan Provincial Rehabilitation Center, 20
(4) Holy Love Foundation, 30
(5) Ganzi Tibetan Prefecture, 90
According to our contract, the Federation must supply us with a photograph of each individual chair recipient sitting in their chair, and fill out a form with the person's name, birthdate, and other information. This is to prevent fraudulent use of the chairs (although the black market for wheelchairs is just about nil, even in China). The reps had all brought their own trucks, which, after major pandemonium, were loaded with their assigned assortment of sizes.
The largest share of chairs is for Ganzi Prefecture, that is, Kham. At 5pm our own East Wind truck showed up. I
took one look at it and said, "there is no way they are going to put ninety wheelchair boxes onto that truck!" But never underestimate
Asian ingenuity, because our team of 15 roustabouts, which included our Kham Aid Foundation field team, a lot of Holy Love staff, and even Holy Love founder Mr.Meng himself (he's fifty years old this year), climbed all over that truck, put the chairs in, took them out again, put them in another way, pushed in a few corners, threw a few more on top, added half a dozen sacks of spare foam padding, added three large boxes of toys, poked the team's personal baggage into a few empty corners, and cinched down a tarp over everything. It was a miracle, but it fit.
I must have walked around that truck five times to make sure all the ropes were tight. Now, three hours later, the truck is already on its way, with Mr. Wu Bangfu, director of our Kangding office, aboard to make sure nothing falls out. He's also carrying lots of stamped paper to show to inspectors at check points along the highway, for articles shipped west must pay a tax to support road improvements.
As for the rest of us, we'll be cramming ourselves into a Toyota at 7am tomorrow morning: the four I already mentioned, plus Dana Isherwood (on the Kham Aid board of directors), and Melinda Liu, a correspondent from Beijing.
Stay tuned. More reports will soon follow.
President, Kham Aid Foundation