Remember Upenda? April 2012, Moshi,Tanzania

Last winter, we included a blog entry about a little girl who needed a walker to assist her in developing the ability to walk independently. Upenda was one of seven children who were waiting for walkers. She had tried mine with the hand grips lowered and she took off with it, leaving us in a cloud of dust. I should mention that another child had also tried it, but without supervision and guidance, was not ready for it. Upon arriving in Tanzania this winter, I was told that several of the children had walkers now and that they were helpful to a few of the children. So I had images in my mind of walkers such as mine rolling around, powered by the children. Well, it turned out to be another reminder for me that I cannot make assumptions like that. I also should remember that people in Tanzania are so resourceful and will design and construct something with available materials that they hope will serve the same purpose. I’ve included a picture to show you what I mean.

he picture shows a child using a locally-made walker that worked for her size and skill level. Three other children who I know are not able to use the locally made walkers that were specifically made for each of them.

My walker is not necessarily the answer for everybody, but it would be helpful if there was one available here that was adjustable for different body sizes and skill levels. It appears that people here have not seen one like mine and often don’t know what its purpose is. I have had many good laughs about peoples’ comments and/or actions when they first see it. It’s usually mistaken for a chair. I take time to help people understand what it is, how it works, and why I use it. Even the med students who are working with the ProMot Health project said they had neither seen nor known about walkers until they met me. My friend Genevieve of BCC made an interesting observation one day by saying that her country makes people more disabled and dependent because there is nothing available for them between the use of a cane or stick and the use of a wheelchair. Consequently, if a cane does not provide enough support and stability, then the next step is to use a wheelchair. Then, of course, there are the issues of availability, cost and an impossible terrain for many people. That’s another whole story!

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