The UpBeat:

Gifts of Mobility For Those With Disabilities in Uganda

By: Ann Flynn

What do you do when you don’t have the use of your lower limbs and you have no means of getting around? You either crawl on the ground or you stay at home. This means no schooling for the children and no support for the women, who are often primary caregivers.

That’s what’s happening to the many Ugandans who are waiting for a hand-pedalled tricycle that will allow them to become mobile and independent.

CanUgan Disability Support, a small registered charity based in Ottawa, has been providing these innovative tricycles to people with disabilities (PWDs) in Uganda since 2010. Because the need is so great throughout the country, they have focused their attention on PWDs in the district of Kasese, which has one of the highest incidences of disabilities in the country. To date, CanUgan has provided 171 of these tricycles to PWDs in Kasese but can’t keep up with the demand.

Each tricycle is manufactured in Kasese and is custom-made to fit the recipient.

In order to fund these tricycles, a dedicated group of volunteers in Ottawa is busy throughout the year raising funds for tricycles as well as other assistive devices for PWDs, such as white canes, raised shoes and crutches. They work tirelessly holding get-togethers, a fundraising dinner, a trivia night, a brunch and a silent auction, where they tell the stories of these PWDs with compassion and hope.

On May 15, they launched CanUgan’s most ambitious project to date — a crowdfunding campaign to fund 50 hand-pedalled tricycles for women and children with disabilities in the Kasese district.

They call it Gifts of Mobility.

The goal is to raise $8,000, and two weeks into the campaign they had already raised enough to fund 19 tricycles — almost 40 per cent of the goal. The campaign will last until June 15, and the organizers are hoping to fund the remaining 31 tricycles in that time. Anyone wishing to help fund these tricycles can go to fundrazr.com/giftsofmobility to make a donation.

What is the impact of these tricycles, you might ask? If you ask any of CanUgan’s volunteers, they will tell you about the enormous difference the tricycles make to the lives of PWDs in Uganda.

When Kirabo received her new tricycle, she used it to get to the market to earn money as a food vendor. She now supports herself, and is able to help with her siblings’ school fees. Jonathan had stopped going to school because his father had died and his mother could no longer carry him to the school. Since last August, he has used his tricycle to get to school every day by himself. He has big plans for the future and hopes to become a lawyer one day.

Similarly, many women with disabilities use tricycles that have been outfitted with carriages to earn a living from cross-border trading. They live near the Congolese border and regularly take salt and other necessities in their carriages to sell to Congolese shopkeepers. On the return journey they bring other merchandise to sell to Ugandan merchants, earning money both ways. These women can now support their families with their earnings.

No longer do these recipients have to crawl or remain at home. They have become independent and empowered because they were given the Gift of Mobility. To learn more about CanUgan and its work, visit canugan.org.