PET story and photos from Zambia, November 2011

On a trip to Zambia in July 2011, our short term ministry team was taking time to follow up with OVC Advocates with whom we have developed a partnership.  There are so many orphans and vulnerable children in Zambia, but there are also many local people who are working with them daily to meet their needs.  One of our favorite things to do in ministry is visit with people and see first-hand what the Lord is doing.  God is working.  While many of the things we observe are a testament of the work that God is doing with individuals and communities, there are also unmet needs. On one particular day we were visiting with an area in the Copperbelt Province of Zambia with a man named Simon.  Many needs were presented to us, but we developed a special burden for two children, Blessings and Mapalo.

Blessings and Mapalo both suffer from Cerebral Palsy.  In the US we often see those suffering from CP getting around in motorized wheelchairs and sometimes a van that will lift the chair for ease in transport.  In contrast, the 6 year old girl, Blessings, arrived tied to her caregivers back using a Chitenge. As one would imagine, it is not easy to take her places, but at age 6 she is still small enough to transport.  Mapalo, on the other hand, is a 12 year old boy who has grown larger than his grandmother who serves as his primary caregiver.  He could stand and take a few steps with assistance from his grandmother, but in a society where walking is a way of life, he is rarely able to go far.

The families of both of these children are working to provide for their basic needs, and paying transport cost required for their children to join them when they move about was an extra burden on their household and often resulted in the need to leave them at home.  Not only did this need capture our attention, but the relationship that the caretakers had with their children also stood out to us.  For any mother going about their business, it’s easy to become distracted from the important job of caring for a child, but these women were extremely attentive toward their children with special needs.   The grandmother was careful to prop Mapalo up against her so that he could was comfortable and could observe what was happening around him.  Similarly we watched Blessing’s mom lovingly dote over her as if she was the only other person in the world.  As the team observed and later talked with these families, we knew that when we got back to the US we wanted to find a way to help these two children remain a part of the society through providing some sort of wheelchair.

Upon returning we searched for options to be able to provide for this need, including making our own wheelchairs out of PVC and supporting Simon to search around Zambia for options.  One of the team member’s mother learned about a group that made PET carts here in the US.  These seemed to be perfect since they are designed to travel on non-paved, less-than-ideal roads and paths.  When communicating with Von Driggs of PET International, we learned that they had a person who made these carts in the neighboring town of Kitwe, Zambia!  The communication was a breeze – Von was quick to respond and introduce us to his Zambian counterpart, Delbert, who manufactures the PET chairs from the New Life Center in Kitwe.  He was able to build specialized chairs for the children, which were ready for pick-up in a short amount of time.  We are very grateful for the work of PET International and the New Life Center in Kitwe for stepping up to meet the needs of disabled children and be a visible expression of the love of Christ.  These chairs are now improving the lives of Blessings, Mapalo, and their families by providing them with increased mobility.                 Tannen VanZwieten

“…You are my help and my deliverer; O LORD…”  Psalm 70:5

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