Wheelchair Program Frequently Asked Questions
Q. Where do the wheelchairs come from?
A. The chairs are manufactured in Chengdu city, Sichuan Province, China by a company called Therapeutic Center for Limb Disabilities. (the name reflects the company's former existence as a state-owned work unit, their manufacturing arm has since gone independent and for-profit ). The chairs are shipped by truck from Chengdu to the high plateau where the needy disabled people are located. Dege and Sershul counties are located three days' road travel from Chengdu and are one day distant from each other.
Q. Who makes sure that the chairs reach the right people?
Q. Who is your local government partner on this project?
Q. Do you deliver each chair to the people in their homes?
A. Sometimes the team stops at villages en route to deliver wheelchairs to people living in those villages, but most recipients do not live near the highway and it is impractical to visit so many villages, many of which are not accessible by motor vehicle. So we ask them to come to the county seat to receive their chairs. When they cannot come, a family member familiar with their situation comes to pick up the chair and receive training.
Q. Can wheelchairs be used in a mountainous region like Tibet?
Q. How do people use the wheelchairs? How long do they last?
Q. What kinds of disabilities afflict people in Tibet?
A. Tibetans have most of the conditions and diseases that affect people in other countries, for example cerebral palsy and arthritis. However there are some differences, too. Because of inadequate health care, accidental injuries that would be treatable in the West can lead to permanent disability in Tibet. The hard physical work of farming and herding likely exacerbates joint pain in old age and accounts for the large number of elderly who are severely disabled by arthritis. We have also seen a few individuals who suffered from Polio as children, people who were severely injured in deliberate beatings at the hands of others, and even one war veteran who was injured in a battle in Viet Nam.
Q. Who cares for disabled people in Tibet?
A. There are no institutions or skilled care-givers in Tibet (or other poor rural regions of China), so disabled people are invariably cared for by family members at home. From what we've seen, the care given by family members is very loving and attentive. Those who have no family are indeed in dire straights although sometimes the government steps in to provide a paid care-giver or the person, if elderly, is admitted into one of a handful of nursing homes for childless senior citizens. Very few disabled people make their living as beggars although this is becoming increasingly common in modern China as the government safety net weakens and disappears. Disabled people are usually not admitted to monasteries and nunneries but there are exceptions and those who are able to live in a religious community are often cared for very well.
Q. I have a nice wheelchair in my garage. Can I donate it?
A. If your garage is in California or China, the likely answer is "yes, you can." These are places from which we are able to easily ship or carry the wheelchair to Sichuan. If your wheelchair is somewhere else, then transportation may be challenging, but it's still worth inquiring, especially if your wheelchair has special (expensive) fittings or if it's motorized. Contact Eunice Shen, firstname.lastname@example.org to find out. If we can't use your wheelchair then we can refer you to other charities that can.
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