Amputee Ralph Best describes his wheelchair as “my feet”, while David Bernstein says the equipment has given him the ability to go wherever he wants to go.
The two men were grateful recipients of wheelchairs donated by the Latter-Day Saints (LDS) Charities, run by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
The charity has been donating wheelchairs to members of the disabled community in Barbados since 2006. This latest donation of 136 wheelchairs has brought the total so far to 1,215.
At a ceremony held at the Garrison, St. Michael headquarters of the Barbados Council for the Disabled last Friday, Mr. Best and Mr. Bernstein spoke of the important role the wheelchairs played in their lives since they became disabled.
Mr. Best said that although both his sister and his daughter assisted him, he was able to function independently. “I cook, I wash, I clean and the wheelchair gets me around. I go to the supermarket, I go to the doctor. I skip and hop in my wheelchair because it is my feet. I thank everyone for all the help.”
Mr. Bernstein noted that even after he began to experience mobility issues, he was still able to move around but then he lost his sight and it became increasingly difficult.
He told the audience: “With the wheelchair, one of my sons will push me and take me wherever I want to go and I enjoy myself. I thank everyone for assisting me, especially the staff and members of the Council for the Disabled.”
Joseph Lynch, District President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, disclosed that the partnership with the Barbados Council for the Disabled not only offered wheelchairs but also walking aids, equipment, training, repair and support for recipients to help them become more self-reliant.
Noting that immobility affected people of all ages throughout the world, he said that the project was part of a global humanitarian effort by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. In 2018, the charity helped 53,800 people in 40 countries with wheelchairs and walking aids.
Previously in Barbados, the project was executed in partnership with the Ministry of Health with 250 chairs donated in the first year, a similar number in 2008, 275 chairs in 2011 and 304 chairs in 2015.
On this trip, a team of technical experts from the charity, led by Elder Mike McGuire, spent a week training volunteers from the Barbados Council for the Disabled in the assembly of wheelchairs, how to assess and fit a wheelchair to a recipient, and equipment repair.
Mr. McGuire revealed that the LDS Charities was a worldwide organization which provided services in 161 countries.
Describing the Barbados Council for the Disabled as “the pre-eminent organization serving the disabled within the Caribbean”, he said that he and his team were honoured to work with the volunteers who attended the training workshop.
The team from Utah in the United States comprised Stephen Bagley, who builds wheelchairs; Bud Larsen, a physical therapist; Dr. JoAnne Wright, an occupational therapist; and Andy Schnebly, who promotes self-reliance.
Six trainees were presented with certificates at the ceremony. They were Rose-Ann Foster-Vaughan, Maria Holder-Small, Randy Mathurin, Mark Goddard, Sean Cooke and Kevin Selman.
President of the Council for the Disabled, Kerryann Ifill, said the organization was proud to partner with the charity in the execution of the project, which delivered quality products to Barbadians living with mobility challenges.
She submitted: “We are not merely giving out wheelchairs through this programme. Our clinics are not about handing off mobility aids. Rather, it is about empowering the lives of persons with disabilities, affording them and their families the dignity and the opportunity to lead full, productive and effective lives.”
Minister of People Empowerment and Elder Affairs, Cynthia Forde, also welcomed the donation and commended both the charity and the Council for their commitment to improving the lives of the disabled and for underscoring the message that disability did not mean inability.
She declared: “Anyone of us can become disabled at any time yet some of us are so unreasonable, so unkind and disrespectful to persons with disabilities. I extend my gratitude to you for your contribution and for your recognition that people who are disabled matter. Through your hard work, commitment, love and dedication, you help to empower these individuals and give them the confidence to pursue their dreams.”