Magical Malawi

I’ve been aware of the amazing work that Motivation do for some time, and when the opportunity to be involved with a project of theirs in Malawi came up, I was excited to take part.

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We’ve come a long way!

On the eve of National Paralympics Day, we’re reflecting on a sporting legacy that’s changing attitudes around the world.

Here at Motivation, we believe in sport for all. Our range of affordable sports wheelchairs aims to encourage more people to take part, and remove the cost barrier for clubs, schools and families who want a quality sports wheelchair that won’t break the bank.

But these chairs are not just about creating the next generation of medal winners. In all corners of the globe, they’re also changing attitudes.

In Afghanistan, we’ve come a long way since 2012. Just two years ago, the country’s female wheelchair basketball teams were playing behind an opaque screen in Kabul. And an inter-team tournament was banned, as it wasn’t deemed appropriate for women to leave their families to travel to Kabul for the match.

This year, the first Afghanistan Women’s National Championship was held. Playing sport as a disabled person in Afghanistan is a breakthrough in itself; doing so as a woman is even more remarkable.

In Uganda, a simple game of wheelchair basketball brought over 500 disabled and able-bodied children together, in a country still plagued with stigma. Inspired by what they could achieve, 132 disabled children now go to school as a direct result of playing sport.

In the UK, young people 12 year old Henry, disabled are discovering that sport can be the very best kind of therapy, and prove to other people that anything is possible: “Playing sport I feel part of a team… it’s made me happy again

And don’t forget, all profits from sales of our sports wheelchairs goes back into our charity projects, helping disabled people in the world’s poorest countries to get mobile and stay healthy and stay alive.

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National Paralympic Day

This Saturday 30th August, the UK is celebrating Paralympic sport.

Events are taking place across the country, to mark two years since London 2012.. and YOU can get involved!

Our sports wheelchairs will be at two of the biggest festivals – in London and Liverpool – to help give people their first taste of sport. Always fancied giving it a go? Well now’s your chance!

In London, the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park will come alive once again. Paralympic athletes will compete in some of the park’s iconic venues, and Motivation’s Multisport wheelchairs will be on hand for aspiring sports stars to get in, and have a go!

So if you’ve always fancied shooting a hoop, serving an ace or just seeing how fast you can spin around the court, then we look forward to seeing you there! More information about the London event can be found here.

And if you’ve always wanted to see how fast you could race 100m, our Flying Start racing wheelchair will be rigged up and ready to go at the Liverpool ONE shopping centre. Attached to rollers, and linked up to a computer, you’ll be able to track your speed against other competitors on the day. It sounds like great fun!

If you manage to get along to either event, please let us know.

For other opportunities to try wheelchair sport, take a look at the Parasport club-finder, to find a sports club near you!

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A mother’s hopes and dreams

Now that Gevinah’s 11 year old daughter Masika has the right wheelchair, she has just one dream: That she’ll be able to take her to school one day.

Genivah at the support group

Masika has cerebral palsy and epilepsy. She was born in Uganda, where discrimination against people with disabilities is widespread. Many believe it’s caused by witchcraft, or a curse. Others just see disabled children as a ‘burden’.

Sadly, Masika’s dad felt the same, and prevented her from getting medical attention… saying instead that his daughter should be ‘left to die’. Genivah found the courage to leave her husband just a year ago, and moved to a new village to take care of her two children.

The wrong wheelchair can be dangerous
In January this year, she started attending a new support group for parents and carers in the village, set up by Motivation and local disability organisation, (the Rwenzori Association of Parents of Children with Disabilities). It was close enough to walk there, but Genivah had to push Masika in her old, heavy, adult-sized wheelchair… The journey was long, and incredibly dangerous.

It took Genivah two hours. Every few meters she had to stop and reposition Masika, to prevent her from sliding out of her over-sized wheelchair and falling onto the road. And because of the ill-fitting chair, Masika developed pressure ulcers – sores on the skin that can be life threatening if left untreated.

Sadly, this is a common story. Donated orthopedic wheelchairs regularly arrive in developing countries, from people who have the best intentions. In reality, they do more harm than good, and are rarely suitable for the rough terrain found in some of the world’s poorest countries.

Genivah in her new Motivation wheelchair

The right chair, with the right training
When Genivah arrived at the support group with Masika, she was instantly referred to a local wheelchair service. People at this service had been trained by Motivation to provide the right wheelchairs, in the right way, so they were able to give Masika a Motivation wheelchair that was fitted properly, to meet her complex needs.

And because it’s designed for rough terrain, it’s much easier to push on the uneven ground. It now takes just half an hour to get to the support group, and Genivah no longer has to worry about her daughter falling out onto the road.

It’s not just Masika that has benefited from the right wheelchair, in the right way. Because Masika is more comfortable, she is much more content. This means Genivah can get on with her weaving, something that has the potential to provide income for her family. As well as having dreams for her daughter, Genivah has ambitions for herself, and hopes to start her own business.

Thanks to the support group, Gevinah learned to look after Masika in the right way. She also discovered for the first time that epilepsy is not contagious, and could tell her family that it’s okay to share cups and plates with her daughter. Just a simple piece of knowledge can be so powerful.

Motivation is working in Uganda to change lives and save lives. There are many more children like Masika. By providing the right wheelchairs, as well as training for parents, carers and teachers, we can give them the best chance of living a healthy and happy life. We’re also working with local schools to make sure they’re accessible and welcoming – so that mothers like Genivah can give their children a future. Read more here…

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Humanitarian Heroes

Today is World Humanitarian Day. Please join us in paying tribute to all Humanitarian Heroes, who work tirelessly to make a difference.

In a world where our news headlines are currently dominated by humanitarian crises – the Ebola outbreak; the conflict in Iraq; the occupied Palestinian territories and Israel; the lingering war and food crisis in South Sudan that is threatening the lives of over 4 million people… we should celebrate the bravery of our humanitarian workers.

Here at Motivation, we know that our staff and partners on the ground are making a huge difference to the lives of disabled people, particularly in post-disaster and post-conflict areas – from the Philippines to Afghanistan, Sri Lanka to South Sudan.

In South Sudan we worked with the International Committee of the Red Cross to set up a wheelchair service to provide over 400 people with a wheelchair or assistive device, many of whom had been injured during the conflict:

“I am capable of surviving on this earth due to this wheelchair. It’s directed my life to a brighter future.”

In the Philippines, we worked with Handicap International and Johanitter to give mobility to people in desperate need, Thanks to the resilience of our partners, battling tough conditions, our chairs were on the ground when they were needed most.

So a huge thank you to all our heroes, working hard to change lives in some of the world’s poorest countries, and for continuing to do it so passionately:

The fight for those living with disability is an immense battle, but I just do my job and meet people at the point of their need. Seeing the transformation in the people we help gives me a lot of joy, and acts as a fuel to propel me to inspire others.” Faustina, a peer trainer for Motivation, who inspires people everyday.

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“No one left behind” Government response to Disability and Development Report

Last Spring, an International Development Select Committee (IDC) Report on Disability and Development made a number of recommendations to ensure that people with disabilities are systematically and consistently included in Government policy and programming. Motivation, as one of the leading charities supporting people with disabilities in the developing world, provided evidence to the report.

The Government has now published its response. You can read it in full here

David Constantine, MBE, President and co-founder of Motivation said: “We are extremely pleased to see that the Government has taken on virtually all of the recommendations in the Report. Whilst we are obviously disappointed that the Government does not agree with the need for a disability strategy, we are very pleased to see that a disability framework, setting out the Government’s commitment, approach and actions will be published by the Autumn. With 70 million people in need of a wheelchair living in poverty, the framework will offer a much needed clearer focus and direction to ensure that “No one is left behind”. Along with our work on guidelines and training for the sector to ensure that more people receive an appropriate wheelchair and support, we will continue to share our expertise to support the UK government in the future.”

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It’s Commonwealth Games month!!

Welcome to our first post from guest blogger Julie McElroy. Here, Julie looks ahead to the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow and tells us how trying out the five Para-Sports events opened her eyes and pushed her boundaries.

“First up on my Para-Sports journey was Lawn Bowls which will be hosted at Kelvingrove. A stunning backdrop of Glasgow University in the background and in the heart of Glasgow’s West End, I met Ron McArthur who is the Visually Impaired Coach for Scottish Blind Bowlers Association along with Garry Brown who is a Physical Impairment Bowls player for Lawn Bowls. I had such a laugh with them but it is a hard sport to master when my manual dexterity wasn’t great. However, the camaraderie you forged in the bowls community is warm and welcoming.

Next up was the Athletics, this has to be defined as the most hilarious assignment I’ll ever do, but lots of questions were discussed. How can someone with Cerebral Palsy do the Long Jump? Due to the nature of my Cerebral Palsy which is inflicted with co-ordination and muscle tightness, I could ‘just’ about jump and when I head landed first in the sand, the sand went into mouth!

Powerlifting was next on the agenda and I was hoping I would be asked to lift the bar weight rather than do the bench-weight which was onerous! I could just about leverage 6kg in comparison to the IPC’s weight for Paralympian is to be able to lift between 70kg and 120kg to be in a potential medal contender position.

Next Para-Sport assignment was Track Cycling at the Sir Chris Hoy Veldrome. I was feeling confident about this assignment as I had an advantage because I can ride a two-wheeler. No words could describe my delight when at last I accomplished a Para-Sports goal! Alieen McGlynn, (Paralympic Cyclist) was so encouraging and supportive too.

At last the final Para-Sports was accomplished in Swimming. I was coached by Paul Wilson who is Disability Performance Development Manager for Scottish Swimming and Stefan Hoggan who is hoping to secure his place for the Swimming squad for Glasgow 2014.

Swimming and Cycling were considered to be my strongest accomplishments during this journey. A great ending to undertaking these challenges! They have really pushed my boundaries but more importantly it has demonstrated what disabled people could do and can do by taking up one of these sports and maintaining an active life.

As I mentioned, the journey has be an eye-opener and has demonstrated inclusivity is possible in staging these international Games. I have an incredible time trying out the five Para-Sports. They have been exhilarating and testing times as I was prepared for the unknown on this Para-Sports journey however, I wanted to reiterate a message that there is a sport out there for everyone to become involved in.

In future blogs, I will writing more about the Commonwealth Games. I will also be interviewing Lynne Featherstone, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for International Development about her passion for raising disability issues across the World. We will discuss the Millennium Development Goals, agreed by the international community in 2000 and endorsed by 189 countries and whether disability will be high on the agenda for the 2015 post Millennium Development Goals development framework.”

About Julie McElroy
Julie has Cerebral Palsy. This has resulted in walking difficulties along with a speech and hearing impairment and manual dexterity problems. She epitomises drive, motivation and passion and in particular champions awareness of ParaSports which will be integrated into the forthcoming Commonwealth Games on recommendation from Lynne Featherstone, International Development Minister. Motivation has followed Julie’s ParaSports coverage via the Glasgow Evening Times with interest and we look forward to reading more blogs from her in the run up to the Commonwealth Games and beyond.

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Faustina – leading the fight

Faustina works as a peer trainer for Motivation in Tanzania. She’s been an inspiration to hundreds of disabled people in Tanzania, proving that having a disability doesn’t, and shouldn’t, hold you back.

Now, she’s advising government in her home country, helping to change attitudes for future generations – we’re incredibly proud. Today, she’s sharing her story:

“There were four of us in the vehicle. I was in the front seat. Suddenly, the driver swerved then stepped on the brakes. I flew through the windscreen and landed on the hard tarmac hitting it hard with my back. It was a sheer miracle that he didn’t run me over. You’ll never walk again, the doctor told me when I came round. I was devastated.

The first three months at the hospital were a real torture physically, mentally, and emotionally. I was a total wreck. When friends came to visit, I didn’t want to see them.

Then, three months after the accident, whilst still in hospital, I discovered I was pregnant. Within a month, my partner left me. Some of my friends abandoned me too. They doubted my ability to carry the pregnancy to full term, let alone deliver the baby safely. Some even told me I should have an abortion, but my family stood by me.

I was afraid of how my child would feel, having a disabled mother. I also thought is my child is going to be disabled just like me? And if I can’t walk, and I can’t go to work again, how am I going to bring up a child?” Six months later I had my baby girl with no complications. My doctor was very surprised as was everybody else. I named my baby ‘TUNU’- Swahili for “precious gift”.

I cried the tears of joy and happiness – and these were my last tears. I started thinking of child and completely forgot about my disability.

I now work as a Motivation Peer Trainer, helping other people to realise that life isn’t over just because they are disabled. People can feel very vulnerable living with disability. Many people in Africa die within six months of being discharged from hospital, which is about the time the support system is withdrawn.

This is where the Peer Training can save lives. As a women, I work hard to dispel the myths that affected me. A woman living with disability will be sneered at even by nurses and midwives. “Isn’t disability enough a burden for your family without adding a baby that you will not be able to care for?”. Ignorance about sexuality for people living with disability is very common. Very often, husbands will have an affair openly without regard to his disabled partner’s feelings, but he feels justified – because his wife is ‘incapable’ of physical love.

Empowering women, and telling them that their disability doesn’t have to hold them back, is hugely liberating – you can see and feel the transformation taking place right there in front of you! As a peer trainer this gives me a lot of joy.

The fight for those living with disability is an immense battle. I am happy that I have been called to take part in helping to change our constitution, governing how disabled people are treated in Tanzania. In the past, this was done by people who weren’t disabled; now, there are 20 of us – all trying to change things for the next generation. I’m very proud to be a part of it.”

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Right Wheelchair, Right Way

Receiving our award from the Secretary of StateExciting news this week at Motivation! We’ll let our president and co-founder David Constantine tell you more…

We were delighted to scoop top prize at the BOND International Development Awards for our partnership with the World Health Organization. The picture shows me receiving the award from Secretary of State Justine Greening. You can watch our award-winning film here

As a small organisation, teaming up with the WHO means we can make a difference on a global scale – by not only giving people the Right Wheelchair, in the Right Way but training others to do the same. This has the power to change thousands of lives.

For a disabled person living in one of the world’s poorest countries, the Right Wheelchair is not just a set of wheels, it’s a vehicle to reach a better future. It creates a route out of poverty. The right wheelchair gets children to school, adults to work and families out into the community. It’s much more than just a wheelchair – it’s a passport to a better life.

It’s particularly poignant to be sharing this news, and the film, with you today – on Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Day.

As many of you will know, I broke my neck in a diving accident when I was 21 and have used a wheelchair ever since. But I am one of the lucky ones…

If I had been born in the developing world, things might have been very different. There’s a high chance I wouldn’t have survived more than 18 months – probably due to secondary complications like urinary tract infections or pressure sores.

So please watch the film, and support us if you can. With your help, we can transform many more lives – Right Wheelchair, Right Way. Thank you.

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After the Storm… Six months on from Typhoon Haiyan

It’s been six months since Typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines, killing 6,300 people, injuring over 28,000 and leaving millions homeless.

Our Emergency Response wheelchairs helping to rebuild lives in the Philippines

It sounds obvious, but the severely injured and disabled are among the most vulnerable both during and in the aftermath of a disaster. They’re often deprived of rescue and evacuation services and are forced to rely on others to stay alive. More often than not, they are forgotten in emergency planning.

Working alongside our partners Handicap International and Johanniter, Motivation was able to deploy its brand new Emergency Response wheelchairs to help injured and disabled victims of the crisis to access life-saving aid – people like Merlynda.

Before the typhoon, Merlynda’s life couldn’t get any tougher. 47 years old and looking after 4 children, life changed dramatically when her husband died 5 years ago. She had no option but to move back in with her parents in San Juan – North East of the capital, Manila. A neighbour offered her a job as a household ‘helper’ but, after noticing a pain in her back, Merlynda was diagnosed with Tuberculosis of the bone. When my mother told me about my condition I kept on crying because I knew that it was incurable.”

The day before the storm, the family was desperate to stay in their home, but local police forced them to evacuate. Despite her daughter’s objections, Merlynda’s mother carried her to safety. The following day, the typhoon completely destroyed their family home. “My parents were so sad because we didn’t know how to start all over again.

Merlynda with Motivation's Sarah Sheldon

Thankfully, Motivation was able to give Merlynda an Emergency Response wheelchair and she no longer needs to rely on other people to stay safe. The family is now starting to rebuild their lives. I thank God for this blessing that came to us.”

Around 30 million people disabled people like Merlynda are affected every year by earthquakes and weather-related hazards (United Nations). We developed our Emergency Response wheelchairs to make sure they are not forgotten in emergency planning, and our chairs are ready to be deployed again should another disaster hit.

In January there was a smaller typhoon in the Philippines and people were forced to evacuate again. One woman we met, who had to be carried to safe grounds by her parents when Haiyan hit, was able to use her new Emergency Response Wheelchair to get herself to safety.

The right equipment in an emergency can save lives.

Donate and help protect disabled children and adults in an emergency. It costs £80 to provide someone with an Emergency Response Wheelchair.

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