We are all children of heavenly parents. We were each individually and lovingly created by God in His image. In Psalm 139 we read the praise: “For thou hast created [me], thou hast formed me in my mother’s womb. I will praise thee, for I am … wonderfully made.” We are, all of us, wonderfully made! And while we were all made with unique talents and differing abilities, we each have a divine role to play here on earth.
During Christ’s mortal ministry, He took special care to administer to those with physical disabilities, whether they were born with their condition or were afflicted later in life. We read that He was “moved with compassion” (Matthew 14:14) for others and that He bade those who were afflicted in any way to come unto Him. As a result, “great multitudes came unto him, having with them those that were lame, blind, dumb, maimed, and many others, and cast them down at Jesus’ feet; and he healed them: Insomuch that the multitude wondered, when they saw the dumb to speak, the maimed to be whole, the lame to walk, and the blind to see: and they glorified the God of Israel” (Matthew 15:30–31).
We at Latter-day Saint Charities strive to follow Jesus Christ’s example by caring for those with disabilities. Our wheelchair initiative seeks to improve not just the health and mobility of individuals with physical disabilities, but also their educational and economic opportunities that come from greater mobility.
Following the World Health Organization’s guidelines for the provision of wheelchairs, Latter-day Saint Charities has teams of volunteers to support mobility around the world. These teams consist of physical or occupational therapists as well as technical wheelchair experts. They help build local capacity by improving access and services, meeting with local organizations, and providing various mobility aids suitable for a wide variety of circumstances.
An assessment is conducted for every individual we assist to meet each person’s needs in the best possible way. Then we make sure each person receives the right size and type of wheelchair or other mobility aid. Additionally, all recipients and their careers receive in-depth training on usage, movement, maintenance, and repair to ensure their mobility device will last for many years.
These services are not performed just for wheelchairs, but for prosthetics as well! Assistance can only be provided where there is qualified medical and technical staff, but we have been able to successfully extend these services to several regions throughout the world.
For example, in South Africa we have been working with Bedford Hospital and their prosthetics lab. Local technicians were trained in making prosthetic legs and using the newly commissioned machines that enable this process. One patient has kyphoscoliosis, but thanks to assistance from an orthotic brace and the accompanying training by Bedford’s staff, he is now able to move and live much freer than he would have been able to otherwise. The hospital is hoping to prepare at least 100 new assistive devices by March 2022.
“Learning of the lives that are improved through these projects makes one so glad,” recounts David Nish, who is a wheelchair specialist in South Africa. He says these projects are a great way to “see the difference Latter-day Saint Charities is making in people’s lives.”
You can follow the examples of Jesus Christ and the medical staff in South Africa by making your environment more accessible for people with disabilities! Educate yourself on disability issues, support disability organizations, and help raise awareness in your neighborhoods. Interact with people of all abilities and ask them personally what they wish to see in their communities to create better accessibility.
Above all, remember to treat others how you want to be treated yourself. Jesus reached out to everyone—regardless of ability or status—with peace, kindness, and respect, and we can too. We truly are all children of divinity.