Imagine being unable to walk and having to remain on a woven mat on the floor of your modest grass house 24 hours a day, year after year, with no hope of mobility and relying on family members to lift you to wash and change your clothes.
Then imagine the joy of receiving a wheelchair.
Earlier this year, we at Pacific Islands Medical Aid received 49 wheelchairs as a gift from Joni and Friends, Wheelchairs for the World, which we have now been able to distribute to the very needy on three remote islands in the central Pacific: Teraina, Tabuaeran and Kiritimati…. Changing the lives of all who received them.
“It’s the joy in one’s face once becoming mobile that melts your heart,” says PIMA president Carlton Smith. After crying for some time, one women who just received her wheelchair said to all of us.. ‘I can now go to church.’
Joni and Friends arranged for us to receive the reconditioned wheelchairs from the state’s correctional facility in Nashville, Tennessee, where inmates made sure each wheelchair was sound. They asked only that we send to the inmates photos of some of the recipients… which we have done. Some of those photos appear here in our newsletter this month.
Getting the wheelchairs to Kiritimati (Christmas Island) was not the biggest challenge because we were able to transport them on a once-a-month air cargo flight from Honolulu. We then needed to send some of them to the outer islands by the sailing vessel Kwai, a ten-day round trip.
Nurses in each village on all three islands prioritized the needs and made sure that each wheelchair went to the most needy. Then, the wheelchairs were distributed by Senior Nurse Tarannang Iaramako and medical officer Taaren Toanikai, both from Christmas Island. Taaren accompanied and distributed the wheelchairs in the outer islands to make sure they got in to the right hands.
In Taaren’s report, he says “ the people are very happy to have this perfect gift. I have a good time with them and share what a wonderful gift. They also told me that they going to keep and look carefully of it.”