Latter-day Saint Charities Is Helping to Increase Mobility throughout the World

Kerstin Bean, Latter-day Saint Charities blog writer
29 January 2021

Over 70 million people—an estimated 1 percent of the world’s population—need a wheelchair. In developing countries, less than 10 percent of these people have received one.

Latter-day Saint Charities is working to provide more people with wheelchairs and walking aids. Through our wheelchair initiative, we are helping to increase mobility, health, and educational and economic opportunities for people with physical disabilities.

The Galchhi Rural Municipality wheelchair distribution, Nepal, March 2020.

Currently, Latter-day Saint Charities’ wheelchair initiative includes partnerships with 90 local government agencies and nonprofits in 70 countries. Our specialists work in tandem with these local partners, with much of their work concentrated in Africa, Latin America, Asia, and the Pacific Islands.

David and Theresa Nish, Latter-day Saint Charities wheelchair specialists in South Africa.

Changing Lives for the Better

The COVID-19 pandemic brought increased challenges for the wheelchair initiative in 2020. With increased safety restrictions and lack of personnel available for training, we provided fewer wheelchairs than in years past. Even so, this past year our organization helped improve the lives of over 30,000 individuals, providing 21,365 of them with wheelchairs. We have also provided remote training to assessors and technicians affiliated with local partners.

Here are a few beneficiaries whose lives have been improved by increased mobility:

Nunyunja Gracie Brendah received a new wheelchair that helps her access her work. Before, she was unable to navigate the rocky and hilly conditions on the way to her workplace. Now she can do so, and she affectionately calls her new wheelchair “my magic wheelchair.” Inspired by those who helped her, Brendah has founded her own nongovernmental organization, Foundation for the Differently Abled, which helps people with disabilities to develop job skills.

Madame Phiona, who was born with bilateral nonfunctional limbs below the knee (a common disability in Uganda), can now reach her chalkboard while teaching. Thanks to our generous donors, Latter-day Saint Charities has provided her with a wheelchair so that she can be more self-reliant. Not only is she now better equipped to support her family, but she can also travel to the market and other places in the community without the expense of transportation.

Khanal Govinda has received his second chair from Latter-day Saint Charities. When Khanal was two, he contracted polio and lost the use of his leg. Now he is a retired schoolteacher and is developing a training center in Nepal to teach tailoring to the disabled.

Khanal Govinda sharing his story with Latter-day Saint Charities and local volunteers.

The Future Is Bright

In 2021 we plan to provide 40,000 people with wheelchairs. Our efforts will also include a plan to increase training and donate a greater number of supportive wheelchairs. Currently, Latter-day Saint Charities provides mostly basic wheelchairs, which benefit those who can sit upright without additional support. A supportive wheelchair provides mobility for those unable to sit upright independently. By expanding our wheelchair offerings, we will ensure that more people have their mobility needs met.

The long-term goal of the wheelchair initiative is to improve the lives of those with physical disabilities while helping local organizations receive resources and support from within their own communities. “This is not just about wheelchair donations but about providing training locally for sustainability. When we help build the capacity of a local organization to provide long-term care, then our efforts make a difference that stays behind,” says Eric Wunderlich, program manager for Latter-day Saint Charities Disability Services.

The future is bright for individuals with mobility challenges. With the support of local governments and agencies as well as donors, people’s lives and communities are being changed for the better. Latter-day Saint Charities wants to continue to support this kind of change.