Chain of generosity from Australia to Nigeria

Chain of generosity from Australia to Nigeria

Madonna Brosnan

A 40ft shipping container filled with 276 new wheelchairs designed and assembled by Surfers Sunrise Rotary on the Gold Coast, was delivered to St Anthony of Padua Parish in Okija, Nigeria, at the end of November 2013.

This simple, introductory sentence belies the incredible generosity and goodwill on the part of numerous individuals, which resulted in this successful delivery to the other side of the world.

Des La Rance and Daryl Sanderson began the Surfers Sunrise Rotary Wheelchair Trust 15 years ago.

Des designed the wheelchair to suit terrain on the African continent. For just under $100 the wheelchair is made from the triangular frame of two old bicycles, a wooden platform base, wide tread BMX wheels and plastic seats imported from China in container loads.

A solid extruded fill is placed in each tyre to eliminate any concerns of punctures.

Rotary have gifted an amazing 7,000 of these wheelchairs to recipients in 31 countries around the world. This container load was the first sent to Nigeria.

Donated time

Fifteen to twenty Rotarians gather every Saturday morning at their Parkwood shed to donate their time and skills in creating these wheelchairs.

The shed is set up with different work areas for timber, welding and engineering, along with a huge storage area for the completed and boxed wheelchairs.

Assisting Rotary with assembly and painting some of the wheelchairs are offenders at Palen Creek Correctional Centre, who benefit from working on a meaningful project of benefit to others.

Wood offcuts are taken by the local Cerebral Palsy Centre and turned into painted wooden toys which are then packed into each wheelchair box.

Jesus Abandoned Charity was offered a 40 foot container of these new wheelchairs for Nigeria. Having struggled to get second hand wheelchairs for its first two containers of disability equipment, the offer of 276 brand new wheelchairs was breathtaking.

Having a 40ft container transported to the Rotary shed, along with fundraising for shipping and customs, quickly became the focus.

A spirit of generosity was shown by Sinclair Containers on the Gold Coast who offered the container at a heavily discounted price and Patrick's Transport who agreed to deliver the container to the shed and then to Brisbane Port for free.

Space is money in a shipping container so it was decided to fill up all gaps in the wheelchair boxes with clothing and shoes.

Jesus Abandoned already had 300 kilograms of clothing in its shed, so along with a donated wool bale of clothing from Toowoomba Lifeline, Toowoomba Carrying Company generously transported the bales of clothing to the Rotary shed for free.

As any charity can testify, fundraising is the hardest part of the journey, so door-knocking businesses around Toowoomba for shipping and customs costs began in earnest.

Daily Mass at 6.30am before door-knocking ensured an encounter with a generous heart, one in every ten requests. Within a month it was all systems go for the loading.

On Saturday 10 August, the Rotary shed at Parkwood was abuzz with ten Jesus Abandoned volunteers from Lismore and Brisbane along with the Rotarians.

A spirit of teamwork imbued the morning's work and the container was loaded in record time, even allowing for a half hour morning coffee break. The youthful Jesus Abandoned volunteers with their speed and agility complemented the experience and wisdom of the Rotarians.

The following Monday the loaded container was at Brisbane Port and sailed for Nigeria on the Friday.

Fr Anthony Ananwa, co-founder of the charity here in Australia and Nigeria, handled the difficult task of customs at Port Apapa, Lagos, and the transport logistics for the two-day journey to his parish in Okija.

In Australia there are Knights of the Southern Cross, but in Nigeria they have Knights of Mulumba.

Thankfully for Fr Anthony, it was a Knight with 20 years experience as a clearing agent who assisted with the customs and transport process.

On arrival at St Anthony of Padua parish compound Fr Anthony organised a truck and crane from nearby Nnewi to come and unload the container from the Lagos truck.

The event, as with the previous two containers, aroused local curiosity and a crowd quickly gathered to watch the crane in action.

Assembly of each wheelchair takes about 15 minutes, so Fr Anthony soon had some of his young parishioners on the assembly line.

As chaplain for the Disabled Association of Anambra State, Fr Anthony applied to the State Governor for a minibus for the Association as well as Jesus Abandoned Charity.

Father wants the bus as a delivery van (seats taken out) to distribute the wheelchairs and as a people transporter with seats intact.

Last month he escorted the President and Secretary of the Disabled Association to the Governor's house to collect their minibus. Fr Anthony confidently waits for a minibus for JA.

This extraordinary chain of generosity continues.

Daryl Sanderson at Rotary has offered another 40ft load of wheelchairs, along with purchasing the container itself.

Pope Francis repeatedly asks us to care for "the weakest and most fragile human beings - the unborn, the poorest, the sick and elderly, the seriously handicapped". Thankfully there are people in this world like those in this account.

To view videos and photos of the Rotary container and distribution in Nigeria see: www.jesusabandoned.wordpress.com

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