Wheelchairs for Nigeria

2013 Nigeria Wheelchair Report

Dr. Ron Rice, November 25, 2013

Dear friends of Wheelchairs for Nigeria,

I returned from my annual trip to Nigeria a little over a week ago. It took 39 hours from Jos to Seattle, so I am finally over my jetlag and have caught up on the meetings and mail waiting for me. This was my 20th trip to Nigeria.

Ayuba and I did seven wheelchair presentations, although several others were cancelled at the last minute. Ayuba asked the local government organization, church or mosque to at least pay for the transport of the wheelchairs, but in several cases they couldn't come up with the money. In Lakoja (Kogi State) and Makurdi (Benue State) the state governors wanted to attend, but couldn't fit our schedule. Then the day after I left, Ayuba gave out 50 wheelchairs in a major presentation at Makurdi, with the Benue governor and his wife in attendance.

We also gave out folding white canes to the students at two schools for the blind. Unfortunately the University of Jos has been on strike for 5 months so we were not able to give white canes to the many blind university students. I took 80 white canes with me on the plane. I buy them here in the US for $18.50 each. At a third school that has 13 blind students we were able to pay for repairs to their 9 Perkins Braille machines.

I was very surprised to find that Ayuba had over 800 unfinished wheelchairs in the shop. The problem has been that all year we have been short on money, so Ayuba has been buying steel tubing so the staff could continue working, welding frames. There has been no money to buy the wheels, chains, cranks and other bicycle components. About 600 of the wheelchairs are painted and all finished except for the wheels and other bicycle parts. The other 200+ are just the frames. I told Ayuba we had to finish those 800 wheelchairs and get them distributed before the end of the year. The good aspect of this problem is that Ayuba has been able to increase the efficiency of the shop so they are building about 100 wheelchairs a month. So I am redoubling my efforts to raise the money to get those 800 wheelchairs finished and distributed to polio survivors. Any help in this regard would be much appreciated.

The price of rice is the lowest in November, just after harvest, so Ayuba bought 35 - 100 kg. bags ($60 each) while I was there. One half bag will go to each staff member for a Christmas bonus and the other half next June. The extra will be available during the year at cost for staff who run short. A full sack of maize will also be given at Christmas. The gift of foodstuff helps a little to compensate for our low salaries.

We got started on building the new shop while I was there. Our old shop on a back alley is much too small and in an unsafe area. The new property is very strategically located, on a main road across from the University of Jos. Thank you to those who responded to my appeal before I left. We have about half of the estimated $65,000 needed for the main building. It is a very large simple building, 225 ft. x 50 ft., basically a raised platform with a roof. It is open on 3 sides for light and air circulation, with offices and a locked storeroom at one end. One amazing development: we will need a huge amount of fill dirt to build up this platform, an estimated 600 cubic yards. We estimated this could cost as much as $10,000 to pay a small crew to fill 80-100 dump truck loads with shovels and deliver to the site. However one of the major Nigerian banks is building a huge 5 star conference center on the university campus, a stone's throw from the new shop, and the superintendent assured Ayuba and me he had a lot of fill dirt to get rid of and he would deliver it for free!

We have now built and donated a total of 7,500 wheelchairs! Even though we cannot go into northeast Nigeria anymore because of the Boko Haram terrorists, where sadly there is a lot of polio, there is still an enormous need in the places we can go.

Thank you again for your support!

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