So I arrived at Botswana at 9pm and was asleep by around 9:30. This was good because I had to wake up at 5:30am to go with the Rotary Club of Gaborone to deliver wheelchairs for the Wheelchair Foundation Project.
The Gaborone Rotary Club Wheelchair Distribution
Rafa Veraza, the Rotary Ambassadorial Scholar from New Braunfels, also arrived the night before, but he flew a direct flight from Atlanta to Johannesburg to Gaborone and did not have to take a bus or eat a mouse. Both Rafa and I are staying with Rotarian Barabra and Ulrich (from Austrailia and Germany) until the dorms open next week.
Rafa and I at the ASETS convention in January
So a very punctual Englishman, William, and his wife, Christiane were there at 5:29am to pick us up. We then rendezvoused with about 10 other Rotary members at a crossroads north of Gaborone. Rafa and I ended up riding with an Argentinian surgeon, Ernesto, and his wife, Sabrina. We talked the entire 2.5 hours it took to reach the town of Mahalapye. There we met up with the public-health coordinator, Elijah. Elijah works for the Ministry of Health as a disabilities specialist and is charged with developing programs for helping disabled Motswana (the nationality of people living in Botswana).
We then went on to visit Palapye. The wheelchairs were given out at the district government offices. Compared to my experiences in Haiti this was quite thrilling. You see, in Haiti the federal government has little presence in the rural provincial areas. But in Botswana there were government offices for all levels of infrastructure development, health, and education in this area quite removed from the capitol. A Zimbabwean doctor, Simon, is in the newly appointed public health director for the zone.
Across the street in Palapye from the wheelchair distribution
Simon filled me in with some useful information about the district we were delivering wheelchairs in. There are 16 clinics with two hospitals. There are six doctors who rotate among the clinics and work in the hospitals. While they have infrastructure they are still lacking doctors and medicines to fully treat all the patients. And just how needed were the wheelchairs? Well, the district government budget only allows for up to 10 new wheelchairs a year (last year they only got 4). So take a look at the wheelchairs some people brought and traded in for the new Rotary wheelchairs.
Check out the home repairs...now they have new wheelchairs
This is a Foundation Wheelchair given out in 2004. Its wear and repair are evidence of its value to the recipient
Most of the patients were brought in on ambulances. All of this was coordinated by social workers, the clinics, Elijah, the disabilities coordinator. Some of the wheelchair recipients were old, others were amputees, but many were disabled children. Some had club feet, most were mentally underdeveloped. There is a need for “special needs” wheelchairs and the club also wants to start rebuilding the old wheelchairs.
Here are the Wheelchairs lined up to be distributed. Quite a bit of pomp surrounding the ceremony.
In Palaye and Mahalapye the Rotary Club of Gaborone gave out 62 wheelchairs. Every recipient was given a certificate and their picture was taken in the wheelchair with their certificate number as proof of receipt. At each of the distributions there was a short ceremony in Tswana and English that was attended by the area Counselor or Chief. All of them mentioned the Botswana Vision 2016 and how the Rotary Club was helping create a “compassionate and caring” nation.