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‘Gift of dignity’ improves lives for Thai disabled

Posted on Apr 28th 2014 by in Current Initiatives, Disability, Health, News

While some couples might celebrate 34 years of marriage by having a romantic getaway Gold Coast couple Jenny and Mike Anderson celebrated their 34th wedding anniversary unloading and storing 550 wheelchairs!  

The Nerang Highland Park Lions Club members are currently living in Uttradit, a village four hours drive from Chiang Mai in Northern Thailand, where they are spending a year working as volunteers for the Foundation to Enable the Potential of Disabled Persons (Freedom Wheelchairs).

The following extract was written by Jenny and describes some of their work to date…

“15 December 2013 – Wheelchair distribution to Uttradit.  10 disabled people came to the District Office with family members to collect their wheelchairs and four individual disabled persons were visited at home as they were physically unable to leave their homes.  In each case, our presentation of a wheelchair makes a life of permanent home confinement more endurable for both the disabled person and their home caregiver.  The 53 year old tiny man in the photos (weighing less than 20 kgs) survives in a bare house void of furniture and is cared for by a woman he calls his daughter.  He has been in this condition since the age of 7.  He does not know the medical terms for his disability. The only explanation he knows of for his extreme disability is that when he was a small boy he came down with a very high fever which left him literally bent in half.  In cases like this one it is very difficult to know what is the right thing to do but to restore even a tiny bit of dignity and self-esteem to someone who has none is a very big step in the right direction.

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This 53 year old disabled Thai man weighs less than 20 kgs, is permanently bent double, and survives in a house devoid of furniture

We are happy to report that our attention was drawn to this man as well as the other chair recipients in these photos by a Buddhist monk who lives a solitary life high on a nearby mountain, but walks back and forth into the local village to buy his supplies.  In his earlier life he was an executioner at the Bangkok and Chiang Mai prisons and he then became a monk to atone for his wrong doings.

We were told by the monk that the need is overwhelming with more than 450 residents of this rural area being disabled; they seem to have fallen off the radar of government priority.  We are the first donors of mobility aids in this area.  Had it not been for the 73 year old monk, these folks would have remained invisible”.

Mike and Jenny are always looking for more funds to continue providing free wheelchairs to disabled people in Northern Thailand. Other Lions clubs involved in the Freedom Wheelchair project are Southport Lions Club; Tallebudgers Lions Club; Burleigh Heads Lions Club; Mudgeeraba Lions Club; and Carrara Lions Club. For more information or to make a donation please contact Mike and Jenny (kmaandjma@gmail.com) or Merv Rose (merv.jean.rose@gmail.com). More information about Lions Clubs is also available on the Lions Australia website (http://www.lions.org.au

A smiling Bhuddist Monk sits in one of the Freedom Wheelchairs

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A young amputee being presented with his wheelchair in the local hospital

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A group photo of some of the recipients sitting in their new wheelchairs with their families standing behind them

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