Wheels for Ukraine
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Mykola Karpinets is retired and lives with his family. Due to his medical condition, he can't walk and needs a wheelchair to get around. Unfortunately the Ukrainian medical system couldn't supply him with one, so he had to buy what he could afford, an old used wheelchair. As the wheelchair broke down, he nursed the it along, fixing the footrests and wheels and even welding the frame back together several times. In September of this year he came to the California Association to Aid Ukraine (CAAU) - United Cerebral Palsy / Wheels for Humanity (WFH) wheelchair distribution clinic in Lviv because his wheelchair was finally beyond fixing.
According to officials at the government run wheelchair factory in Lviv, the Ukrainian government is supposed to give each disabled person a new wheelchair every 3-4 years. Unfortunately, due to the economic conditions in Ukraine, this is an empty promise. As a matter of fact, because there's no money, the factory only produces wheelchairs three months a year.
For more than ten years, CAAU has worked with Los Angeles based Wheels for Humanity to help bring mobility to special needs people in Ukraine. This collaboration, known as “Wheels for Ukraine”, recently completed the distribution of a shipment of wheelchairs and other rehabilitation equipment in the city of Lviv. The equipment (valued at more than $500,000) included the specialized children’s wheelchairs that are used for those affected by illnesses such as Cerebral Palsy. For those not involved with the care and rehabilitation of people with this problem, it’s surprising to learn that each of these wheelchairs costs between $10,000 and $15,000 and is almost impossible to find in Ukraine.
The wheelchairs were distributed by volunteer members of WFH and CAAU, who travelled to Ukraine on their own time and paid their own expenses. Among others, the team included a Physical Therapist that specializes in rehabilitating children with Cerebral Palsy and a wheelchair technician, who is able to fix, fit and alter a wheelchair to work for a person with almost any disability. The distribution took place at the Dzherelo Rehabilitation Center, an organization in Lviv that treats disabled children. The recipients came come from Lviv, Drohobych, Strey, Rozdil and other areas in the Lviv oblast.
Several months ago, CAAU received a wheelchair request from Matt Mozingo, who works as a volunteer social worker in Ukraine. Please read his description of a boy who needs a wheelchair: “Misha was born 18 years ago with a complicated form of Cerebral Palsy. He is a paraplegic with no mobility in both legs and in one arm. He can’t go outside easily, and doesn’t have any opportunities to find some friends or to simply enjoy life itself. Today his life is contained within the 4 walls of his village home, but his horizons would be greatly expanded is he had access to a quality wheelchair. His lack of mobility has led to isolation from society, and greatly reduced hopes for the future. He currently uses a chair that requires the use of both arms, despite the fact that he has no use of one arm. Misha studied in a special program at school which helped him develop into a thoughtful and smart young man. He likes to work on the computer, to repair something and just to listen to the birds sing. He is like everyone else, just with very limited activities.”
Mr. Mozingo and Misha were willing to drive 240 kilometers from Vinnytsya to Lviv to obtain the wheelchair that would give Misha the mobility that he and others with this illness deserve. It’s for people like him that we dedicate our time, energy and money.
The Wheels for Ukraine program is supported by donations from various sources. This year, the teachers and children at the Los Angeles Ridna Shkola Ukrainian Language Saturday school decided they wanted to help disabled children in Ukraine. Through the CAAU “Sponsor A Wheelchair” program, where a $75 donation sponsors one wheelchair, they collected enough money to sponsor four wheelchairs. Several months ago, CAAU received an email from Victoria Merkel, the first grade teacher at the Pechersk School International in Kyiv. Her students wanted to donate a wheelchair to a needy child in Ukraine. They held an “arts and crafts fundraising party” and raised enough money to sponsor two wheelchairs. It’s through donations like this that we can continue helping special needs children and adults in Ukraine.
View this article as seen on page 19 in The Ukrainian Weekly, November 28, 2010: California Association to Aid Ukraine provides ‘Wheels for Ukraine’ (PDF).
If you would like to support this worthwhile project, donate via the buttons below, or you can write a check payable to “CAAU” and mail it to: CAAU – Wheels for Ukraine
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