By Haily Jones
Can you imagine how difficult daily tasks might be for some if we did not have access to things like crutches and wheelchairs? In the United States, there are many things we may take for granted, including access to mobility devices during times of injury or disablement. We are often provided ready access to mobility devices, and once we are done with them, we can just throw them away. Unfortunately, this is not the reality for those in other countries.
When David Talbot, Founder and President of Crutches 4 Africa, was 3 years old he was diagnosed with polio, just two weeks after a successful vaccine had been discovered. Although Talbot had this disease, he was fortunate enough to have access to mobility devices along his journey to recovery. Talbot has used a plethora of devices to help him get along from wheelchairs, to crutches, to leg braces, but it was not his own story that inspired him to create Crutches 4 Africa.
Talbot was working in Uganda in 2005 when he witnessed a woman with polio struggling to be mobile. Her tendons were so distorted that her right foot touched her right shoulder, and she used a tree branch as a crutch. David also saw two boys that he assumed were playing as one dragged the other on a piece of cardboard, but later found out that the child sitting on the cardboard could not walk, and this was his way of mobility. The community desperately and immediately needed a different way of doing things, and Talbot felt called to help. David Talbot was inspired to do make a difference for communities that did not have access to mobility devices like we do in the U.S.
The mission of Crutches 4 Africa is to give people the gift of mobility, providing easy access, and bridging the gap between disabled and able-bodied people. Talbot did not wait to get started with this organization. He had no previous experience with nonprofit organizations, but he did not hesitate to learn everything he could and get started. Crutches 4 Africa recognizes the intensity and urgency of the needs of disabled individuals, and is able to quickly offer help through awareness and production. In order to successfully fulfill this mission, it is important for Crutches 4 Africa to be heard. This agile organization jumps at opportunities for their voice to be heard, without hesitation.
The organization tries to reach as many people as possible to inform others about how their mobility equipment can be reused in countries that are without. Medical device companies, who would otherwise have to pay money to have used mobility devices thrown into a landfill, are able to repurpose used devices and benefit those in Africa who do not have access to these products. One company, upon hearing about Crutches 4 Africa, was able to donate 32,000 pieces of equipment. Equipment collections happening outside of their home in Denver, Colorado. There are collections in Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Georgia, Ohio, Texas, and many more. It is the tremendous turnout from these collection sites that Crutches 4 Africa is able to have a distribution as one of their upcoming events, where they will take four high school students to West Kenya to provide mobility devices to citizens there.
Since their start, Crutches 4 Africa has provided 88,000 pieces of equipment to those with limited mobility. It is during distributions that members get to see the results and success of their organization. People participating in a distribution have the incredible opportunity to go to Africa and hand out mobility devices to the injured and disabled of Africa. With these distributions quickly under way, grandmothers can finally leave their huts and attend church, people can go to the bathroom on their own, and others who lost their jobs as a result of immobility are able to return to the workforce. One African woman exclaimed, “Hallelujah!” at a distribution in Kenya. Not only had this woman received mobility devices, but she had received them from David Talbot himself, who also uses crutches. Talbot recalls her saying, “I didn’t know white people could be disabled.” For once, she felt cared for and included. That’s what this organization is all about; bringing hope and encouragement to others and reminding them that they are not invisible. They see an immediate need and begin working right away so that those in need can be quickly cared for.
Crutches 4 Africa wants to continue to meet these needs, focusing their efforts on it being a sense of urgency to give people access to mobility devices so that they can live their lives. When you see a legitimate need, do not wait to get started. That’s what David and his team did. One key thing that Crutches 4 Africa has learned is patience. When you recognize a legitimate need and begin working to help that need instantly, results come quicker and there is more time for growth. These things take time, but if you have to will and the drive to do it, anything is possible.
Haily Jones is an undergraduate student in the English Education Department at N.C. State University.