Volunteers’ Stories: Pauline
“Living amongst the villagers was an uplifting experience — they are so poor but yet so happy! Thanks to RIPPLE Africa for giving this to me … I’m sure I’ll be back one day. Tawonga.”
Walking from village to village gave me a sense of what it’s really like to be disabled. No disabled parking bays or wheelchair ramps, no special schools or social services. Disability in village life is a reality which often seals the disabled person’s fate to be homebound plus the certainty of the development of complications.
The villages of Malawi are serviced by MACOHA (Malawi Council for the Handicapped). They do their best to identify disabled people via field workers, who are mostly untrained and unable to provide the services needed but keen to help nonetheless.
Lekeyani Banda was introduced to me on one of our field trips working with children suffering from cerebral palsy. Her picture was one of little hope but yet she was smiling and received me warmly. I identified a possibility of multiple sclerosis as, for the last four years, she had not left the house because she was unable to walk. She had stiffened into the foetal position and was moved daily from her bed to the mat outside, sitting perched on her bony buttocks with her knees hugging her chest. She quickly asked for my help…any help. Her youngest daughter had been taught to do daily stretches on her which, without more vigorous intervention, seemed to have hardly helped. Her greatest wish was to be able to go to church, down to the shops and to visit her family in the village nearby.
Although the path was rocky and narrow, Anna and I decided that Lekeyani needed a wheelchair. Things don’t tend to happen quickly, but MACOHA set about organising a chair for her. It was kept a surprise, and I will never forget her face when it arrived. One small effort on our behalf changed her life! She is so thankful for being given her ‘legs’ again…a moment I will never forget. It made me realise once again that it really is the small things that count, not only for her but for me too!
Living amongst the villagers was an uplifting experience — they are so poor but yet so happy! Thanks to RIPPLE Africa for giving this to me … I’m sure I’ll be back one day. Tawonga.
Pauline (Volunteer Physiotherapist, March-May 2003)