Rotarians Gift to Samoa

Uploaded by AttitudeTV on 07.11.2011

In Samoa there are many people with disabilities living without some of the most basic equipment,
things that we take for granted. Despite the recent earthquakes in Canterbury,
a group of Rotarian’s from Ashburton saw this need existed and decided they could do
something to help.
Once you go beyond the beaches of Samoa you discover the simple life of rural villages. It’s almost subsistence living here and
people with disabilities often rely on charity for basic equipment like wheelchairs. When
things break down there’s no backups.
Your tires are completely flat.
Yeah, I can move okay. Tagatafou Vaeila’s wheelchair broke a year
ago, since then he’s been stuck inside his house and spends his days perched on a hard
tabletop. He can only move from his fale if someone carries him.
I can’t go anywhere because I can’t walk.
In Samoa people with disabilities are in dire need of even the most basic equipment. Some
Rotarian’s from Ashburton thought they could make a difference.
Ashburton is a complete contrast to Samoa; it’s a rich agricultural zone.
People are very friendly in mid Canterbury and they’re hard working and generally speaking
when you ask someone to help normally you’re never knocked back.
Walter and Heather Van Der Kley built their dream home just outside of Ashburton. They’ve
got all the modern conveniences and if Walter’s bike breaks down he doesn’t think twice
about dropping it to the local mechanic. But he’s got to thinking about his Pacific neighbours,
through Attitude, Walter has heard about the need there and decided
to help.
I was looking at Attitude on TV and I saw that some people had wheelchairs but it was
mentioned that they had no disability ramps to get out of the fales. And so I actually
rang the Producer and asked for some contact numbers in Samoa.
Walter has travelled the world with Rotary delivering disaster relief, he was there in
Samoa after the 2009 tsunami.
I feel a certain responsibility, I’m in a position where I can help. I like involving
other people; generally speaking I’m prepared to take a leadership role if required.
Walter roped in fellow Rotarian Brian Fielder for his latest mission. Practical blokes,
they decided to get their hands on some wheelchairs and ship them to Samoa.
The idea of Samoa came about by one of the members of the Rotary Club in Ashburton being
involved with the distribution of shelter boxes after the tsunami. It was a good opportunity
to be part of it with some hands on work.
So we’re going over there to deliver these wheelchairs and then make sure that we can
build disability ramps and whatever they need to make the whole project integrated. About
50 wheelchairs were required and after numerous phone calls we found Enable New Zealand had
some surplus stock that they were prepared to give us and then they put us onto somebody
else who had the balance.
Before she knew it Heather had been roped in too.
I’m expecting to get out where the tourists don’t see, to get out to the out blocks
and find out what Samoa’s really about.
It’s a trip designed to help others, but you can guarantee it will have an impact on
their lives too.
Expectations aren’t great, we’re going over there to learn and help.
Walter’s use to managing multimillion dollar construction projects and having all the resources
he needs. He’ll use all his business skills and contacts to pull this mission off.
I’ve met a lot of people over there that I really respect in what they’re trying
to do and to be able to be a small part of that is great to help me make some sense of
my skills really.
The scale of need here in Samoa is much greater than the Rotarian’s initially realised.
Many of those lucky enough to have a wheelchair have had the same one for 20 years. The rough
terrain means they take a battering and many are well past their use by date. The locals
are eagerly awaiting the shipment, but the ship’s late. Tagatafou Vaeila was born with
twisted hands and feet, in New Zealand he probably would have had physiotherapy to help
with his mobility and general function. He relies on a wheelchair and his broke months
ago. The ground around the fale is uneven, not easy going in a wheelchair.
So Tagatafou can you tell me about the wheelchair you have and why you need a new one?
I need a new one because I want to go to the church. Any of the meetings for church I can’t
go because the wheelchair is broken now.
How long has the wheelchair been broken so that you can’t use it?
One year.
Tagatafou lives with his extended family. Meal’s are prepared and eaten in a separate
fale, the social hub of Samoan homes. His old wheelchair was rickety, but it did mean
he could move around. For the past year he’s been stuck inside his fale, he can’t attend
church, or even join the family for meals. Tagatafou is a respected poet, he writes completely
upside down, he’s always found ways of doing things, and it frustrates him that his life
is so restricted without his wheelchair.
And how does it make you feel when you’re not able to do those things?
Are you able to push the wheelchair yourself?
Who pushes you?
My brothers or cousins, any person come to push me if I want to go to something.
On the other side of the Island the Rotarian’s are equally what's happening now?
The ship has finally docked, but now it seems Customs won’t release the container. They’re desperate to get
it off the ship; they only plan to be here for a week.
I’ve quickly discovered how hard it is to get around Samoa in a wheelchair. You can’t get any traction and it’s like
wheeling through sand, there’s no wonder the local’s wheelchairs look so beaten up.
Faafetai has a wheelchair and can push himself, but his house is surrounded by a metre high
wall, he can’t get in and out without someone lifting him.
So it’s pretty hard work coming through here, how do you manage…
do you have people helping you?
People help me.
Would you like to be able to do it by yourself though?
It’s hard for me to push.
The wheelchair would make it hard because your front wheels are so thin, the wheels
are really thin. Because if the terrain’s gravel like that it’s better if they’re
wide like this, it would make it easier for your cousin to push you. What about getting
into your house, how do you get up there?
My cousin pushes me up.
It would really be easier if you had a ramp wouldn’t it?
Oh my goodness, you must be so strong!
For some it may well be life changing with that little bit more independence, if they
can get out and about a bit more, I think can make a huge difference to their lives,
especially if they’ve got wheelchairs that are more robust than what we’ve seen so far.
In New Zealand our wheelchairs are designed to fit the individual’s needs. Faafetai
is getting a new chair from the Rotarians, it might not be custom made, but it’ll be
a huge improvement on this one.
No wonder it’s so hard, you’ve got no air in your tires that must make it really
hard to push. I don’t know what kind of wheelchairs the Rotarian’s are bringing
over from New Zealand, but they’re going to have to be pretty hardy and made of some
pretty tough stuff for terrain like this. Shall we do the last bit, we’ll go this
way, it’s going to be easier up here.
All of the agencies working here in Samoa are doing amazing work, but their resources
are limited. We’re heading to meet a young woman who was paralysed after falling from
a mango tree when she was 16. Antonina Fosi is 22 now and a mother, her needs have changed,
in order to look after her daughter and have an ordinary life she needs a decent wheelchair.
Sometimes it’s too hard for me doing my job or my daughter – get her showered or
to sweep the house or whatever I want, yeah it’s sometimes too hard…...
Before her baby was born, Antonina had a job, but her wheelchair doesn’t fold up, so she
can’t get it into a car and return to work.
It’s hard for me to do everything I want. I’m missing things of my life, to enjoy my friends.
If you wanted to go into town to meet your friends, what would you do?
It’s hard for me to take over my wheelchair to the town.
So, it would make it hard, wouldn’t it, to get into a car if you can’t fold it up.
I want to go everywhere, but it’s too hard for me to take my wheelchair. If I get a new
wheelchair, or if I get a better wheelchair to do whatever I want.
While they’re waiting for the shipment and all the wheelchairs to arrive, the Rotarian’s
have been keeping busy building ramps for people so they can get in and out of their
houses. Something people don’t often think about, you can give people wheelchairs, but
then they’ve got to be able to get in and out of their homes. So, they’re doing a great job.
You always try and mentally create a picture. You said to us you’d need about a metre
high, so then you have a quick work out mentally what you think you’ll need and you know
that 150 by 50 timber can hold plenty of weight, so that makes your sides and then it’s a
matter of bracing it in such a way that it doesn’t fall over of course.
We’re going to build a ramp for you, what do you think about that?
It’s nice.
We split up into several teams to do different jobs, it’s a bit of over kill here, there
are a few too many people. But the good news is the container is supposed to be open in
the next hour…so we’ll be delivering wheelchairs this afternoon.
Customs has finally released the container; there’s walking aids and over 70 wheelchairs.
And they’ve thrown in some new desks and chairs for the local schools. Assembly and
delivery can begin.
I found myself acting as a bit of a consultant. The Rotarian’s have asked me to have a look
at the wheelchairs and think about which one or two might be best for the people we’ve
seen that really need them. And all of these are in much better condition than the wheelchairs
we’ve seen people using. But I’m thinking about one for Antonina, the young woman with
the spinal cord injury, and one thing she definitely needs is a cushion, because she’s
basically sitting on a bit of card, here’s a good one right here. This one’s even got
a bag on it, and padded footrest, that would be good for Faafetai. And it would be the
very first one that you’ve put on…but the one for the girl with the spinal cord
injury, I think I’ve found the one that would be good for her…this one…it’s
the first one you put on.
I’d spotted the perfect chair for Antonina, not sure the Rotarian’s appreciated me picking
the one from the bottom of the carefully stacked pile. But I want to sit in it to see if it’s the right size.
It’s comfortable, right lets take this for a spin,
yeah it’s good, it’s not as comfortable as mine.
Some of the wheelchairs were given to Loto Taumafai, an organisation that runs a school
and outreach programme for children with disabilities. Judi Winter is a kiwi who lives in Samoa,
she’s a physiotherapist.
This is one of the chairs, Heather, that came with you from New Zealand.
Okay, so what are you going to do with it?
When we got it here the front tires were torn, so we took these off and we robbed the tires
off this chair to put onto this chair.
You could do with some more spares or the whole wheelchair?
The whole wheelchair is great, especially children’s sizes, because we’ve had 19
new referrals since March.
In the few days since she’s been here Heather’s come to appreciate the real need here in Samoa
and the challenges the kids and their parents face.
So, this chair, I’m not sure if Sameti will be this size or this size here. But he lives
on a farm, so these tires on this chair would be great for him. What we may do, if he fits
that chair, the seat width in that chair, then what we may do is just flip off these
wheels. So, see it’s great they just have push buttons and so everything is interchangeable,
so we can again rob Peter for Paul.
The mix and match wheelchairs are off to their new owners.
What are you expecting today?
I’m looking forward to seeing the children when they receive their wheelchair. I really
am, because we delivered some, we built a ramp a few days ago, and some of these children
it just touches your heart, just the smiles on their faces, they’re just fantastic children.
The locals have joined in as part of the delivery gang, many of the wheelchairs are destined
for people in remote villages. Sameti Taoipu is eight years old and lives with his family
on a Banana Plantation. Sameti has cerebral palsy, he can’t walk and he’s never had
a wheelchair that he can push himself.
Can you tell me about the wheelchair here?
In New Zealand we get chairs to trial and the parents get to choose from about three
wheelchairs. Usually the agency who’s selling the wheelchair comes and measures up the child
and they script it and they order a wheelchair specifically for that child. And maybe this
chair is a little bit narrow for Sameti, but it’s going to make it easier for him to
learn to self propel if he’s in a smaller base. We’ve been very short of stock and
so that’s why we haven’t been able to give him a wheelchair, because we’ve had
nothing to give him. And now you can go racing, look, like Tanya.
Sameti is painfully shy, but he’s been quietly checking me out, watching to see how I push myself.
Well nothing like learning from your mistakes.
Try that again, that’s better.
I love it, it’s his first time with this wheelchair and within minutes he’s got it sussed.
And how do you think it will change Sameti’s life now you see that he can push himself?
You can’t underestimate the impact, this little boy can now go to school.
Our young mum Antonina is next. Having hand picked her chair I can’t wait to help deliver it.
Word's spread that it’s on its way and the best part is this chair does fold up. She
can get to church and have some time out with her friends.
Thank you. How are you?
Fine thank you.
Nice to see you again. This is Walter and Heather and this is the new wheelchair they’ve
bought you.
And I would like to say a few words of thanks from the bottom of my heart. This will help
me more in my way of travelling especially to the church over there and I’m sorry for
not having something in return, God bless you all.
Walter and Heather hadn’t met Antonina before, but I’m guessing they’ll never forget her.
Because I’d met Tagatafou earlier, the Rotarian’s let me choose one of the wheelchairs that
came out of the container. The thing that really got me about Tagatafou was, he was
saying he could hear his family having fun in the kitchen fale across the way, but couldn’t
get down there and join them. So I think this wheelchair is going to make a real big difference
to his life.
And what you need to understand is that without a wheelchair Tagatafou never leaves his village,
he can’t get to church and that’s a big part of Samoan life. It’s been one of those
humbling trips, we’re all reminded how seemingly small things can make a massive difference.
Talofa, hello, how are you?
I’m fine.
Good, nice to see you again.
I want you to meet, this is Colin, and Roger, and they have a wheelchair, which we think
will be good for you. And
I think this one will be better, it’s got a really good cushion on it with air in it,
so I think it will be good for you.
That’s good. Thank you.
It’s okay? You’re comfortable?
This is going to change your life and make your life better, so they don’t need any
gift back. I’m sure they will agree that they’re just happy to see you have a better
quality of life.
Thank you for the gift.
It’s our pleasure, and to see the smile on your face is enough. Thank you.
It’s barely 20 metres from Tagatafou’s fale to the kitchen, yet the family greets
him like he’s been away for the past year.
Well I thought it was quite incredible. The reaction from his family when they finally
got him off his hard bed that he’s been sitting on for the last six months when he
hasn’t had a working wheelchair and they were so delighted to have him back in the
family fold and obviously now he can go to church as well, and church is such a big part
of life here.
And for the Rotarian’s – job well done.
The Rotarian’s didn’t sit around and I like their hands on approach.
Yeah, they definitely went about it the right way, getting the help to where it was most needed.
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It was like, “Mum that lady has no hands!” And I was like, “Whoa lady” and waved
and kept walking. It was the first time I’ve ever been called a lady, it was very odd.
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