Wheelchair donated by Winchester to St Lucia still working

I had an amazing coincidence on Friday 1 December. I was out running early in the morning just as the sun was coming up though, unusually, was doing so round the back streets and port of Castries, the capital of St Lucia.

Then, suddenly ahead of me, I spotted someone I thought I recognised totally unexpectedly. Kevin!! Sure enough, it was Kevin Jn Baptiste, driving his motorised wheelchair on his daily commute from home to work place 1 mile away

But this was no ordinary wheelchair, it was exactly the one that a member of the Rotary Club of Gros Islet (St Lucia) had casually asked in 2017 if I could find in UK. I then asked around and a fellow Winchester Rotarian (Karen McCleery) said she had exactly that and was trying to find a home for it. And the wheelchair is still working today, albeit Kevin said he needs to change the battery as it’s not holding charge very well. So, it’s had great usage in 6 continuous years.

I hadn’t seen Kevin since 2017. Such a coincidence passing him then.

And this became the start of a number of projects working with St Lucia, the next also being in 2017 when we identified the need for some supports to go in adult sized wheelchairs for children in St Lucia with cerebral palsy who needed help with their posture. We sourced some supports in UK and Winchester Rotary funded them. Making use of contacts with shipping company Geestline, they agreed to transport the wheelchair and supports for free from UK to St Lucia in Aug 2017, with packaging helpfully constructed by TFSR.

Amazing, and that could be the end of the story but it gets even better. The foundation was set for yet more Geestline help. We then identified a need/opportunity for a new prosthetics centre and trained technicians in St Lucia. We managed to source recycled prosthetics from UK and, in 2 tranches (2019 and 2021), Geestline transported about £100,000 worth of prosthetics to St Lucia, again for free, with TFSR again kindly making the packaging.

So, without the simple ask across the Rotary world for a motorised wheelchair, perhaps none of the above would have happened. What a team effort. Such a successful Rotary trilogy!

Morals of the story:

  • If you don’t ask you won’t get
  • Always ask
  • Rotarians are the best
  • Make the most of networks
  • Build on what you can do
  • Believe in yourselves and others

Richard Spalding

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