Friday, March 15, 2013

Martina’s New Wheels

Back in February, as part of our project research, the team and I travelled to Wiaga to meet a local women’s group to find out more about the Feok Festival. We’ve visited a number of women’s groups in the district to learn about how the groups are involved in the Feok and find out their thoughts on the participation of PWDs (people with disabilities), as we aim to include them in future festivals. It was an insightful meeting and the women of Wiaga were very warm and welcoming.

There was one woman in particular that stood out in the meeting. Her name was Martina, a young mother from Wiaga who was unable to use her legs. She sat with crutches beside her and a baby on her lap, who was often passed around. She was very vocal in the group, voicing her opinion on the Feok Festival and PWDs whilst laughing and joking. Martina was very positive, which was refreshing to see, and I later found out that she also works as a seamstress.

Considering her physical ability, whilst having to raise a child and go to work, I truly admired her positive attitude. Unlike a small number of PWDs that we have met, Martina had a fantastic ‘get up and go’ attitude. It made me realise that most of us take things for granted and moan and worry about the silliest things. Life on crutches alone with a baby cannot be easy.  

At the end of the meeting the women approached us to thank us and say goodbye, whilst Martina approached our national volunteer, Festus, to tell him about her mobility bike. Speaking in Buli, she told Festus that her bike had been broken for sometime and she cannot use it, making travelling and day-to-day tasks difficult. Festus acknowledged her request for us to help her, whilst she thanked us (in English) for visiting and said goodbye. 

We’ve had a lot of requests from disabled (and able bodied) people when visiting the different community groups in the Builsa District. We’ve visited a number of disabled peoples organisations, mental health organisations, schools and women’s groups who have all made requests. Some inform us of the problems they face and the resources they need, whilst others reel off a wish list of wheelchairs, stair lifts and mini buses.

Although we would obviously love to help with the said items, they all cost money - a lotof money. We do record these requests, which can be discussed at a later date, however, CBR, the organisation we work with, don’t have the money either. This is when I had a light bulb moment after hearing Martina’s plea.

Martina's new wheels!
I decided that I would pay for her bike to be fixed. If I brought the issue up with CBR it would have sat in a long queue of other requests and may have never been resolved. Knowing her story and having met her I decided that I wanted to help.

The following week en route to Fubisi, we asked our driver, Kwame, to make a stop off in Wiaga so I could visit Martina’s home and see what work her bike needed. After asking directions from pupil at a near by school, we finally found her at her home; a dingy concrete room filled with cooking utensils, with a large mosquito net filling half of the room with her baby daughter sleeping soundly beneath it. At the back of the room, underneath an old wheel chair, cloth and crutches sat the mobility bike. Coated in dust, it was obvious that it hadn’t been in use for a long time. Three years in fact, as Martina told us. She said that it was a gift from a group of Canadian volunteers, yet the wheels and chain needed replacing. 

We took her number and Festus contacted a repairman who later met us in Sandema town to buy the parts needed. In total, to repair and buy the new parts cost only 83 Ghana cedi, which is around £28.62. I spend that in a heartbeat whilst shopping in Leeds, so it was the easiest (and by far the best) £28.62 that I’ve ever spent.

Tyre shopping

Last weekend I received a text from Festus to hear that the bike had been repaired and was returned to Martina. I was so excited to see her on it so I asked if Kwame could drive me back to Wiaga for me to visit her. I met her earlier this week and she was so happy. The bike looked fantastic with its shiny new wheels. She got in it and cycled around to show me and kindly posed for some photos. 

Martina and her daughter
She told me that she was very grateful that I had it fixed for her as she had her mobility back. She can now travel around with ease and more importantly, take her daughter with her, who can sit beside her in the chair. In the past, Martina had to leave her daughter with someone else whilst she struggled with her crutches. Now, her little girl can travel with her wherever she goes.

It has been amazing to have had the opportunity to help Martina and to actually see the difference it has made to her life. I’m grateful that I’ve had the chance to come to Ghana and to not only help people as part of our project but to also help others in the community. I’ll certainly never forget Martina and her new set of wheels.

- Jenna

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