FBW Group is playing its part in an innovative project looking to develop and make affordable wheelchairs to improve the lives of disabled young people in Uganda.
Kyaninga Mobility, a not-for-profit company, is working to design and develop mobility equipment using local materials.
Stuart Harley, FBW director of operations, is a member of the company’s advisory board and has helped design its new workshop in Fort Portal in the west of the country, working pro-bono.
The aim is to develop a wheelchair, using locally sourced bamboo, specially tailored for rural areas that is more affordable than imported equipment and can be supplied in far greater numbers to reduce waiting times.
The initiative is being driven by Steve Williams, co-founder of the of Kyaninga Child Development Centre (KCDC).
Sales of equipment to third parties will help the company become self-sustaining and proceeds thereafter will be directed towards supporting the work of KCDC.
The project has received some early funding from the Twaingo Fund, which supports charitable organisations in developing countries throughout the world but is looking for more external support.
Steve explains the thinking behind the project. He says: “In Uganda, an estimated 820,000 children between five and 14 need a wheelchair and across East Africa, this number expands to an estimated 2.2 million children.
“There are so few services for disabled children in Uganda and it is difficult to find equipment. Availability is a real issue. So, we began to ask how we could make quality wheelchairs here at a more affordable cost.
“Our design work has been centred on the use of bamboo, which is readily available. We’re at the testing and development stage at the moment.
“The local terrain requires a wheelchair that can endure a rural environment and be modified to fit the unique needs of the wheelchair user, as improperly designed and ill-fitted wheelchairs can be life-threatening to the user.”
As the project develops Steve and his team are aiming to open a second workshop in Kampala and to produce their wheelchair for a wider African market. The cost of the off-road models will be in the region of £300.
Steve says: “We are hoping to start some production early next year. We’re also aiming to secure some more outside funding to help with the development and move us to that next phase.”
KCDC currently provides monthly therapeutic care for more than 1,000 children with a wide range of physical, intellectual and communication disabilities via an innovative community-based rehabilitation programme.
The organisation offers a unique intervention in children with disabilities lives through a holistic approach that aims at ‘helping all children reach their full life potential’.
Caring for a child with disabilities or additional needs places huge burdens on families and caregivers. KCDC also provides training, education and support to families, carers and communities in the care of children and young adults with special needs.
Since opening in October 2014, the KCDC team has grown to 85 staff working over three arms of the organisation: mobility, therapy and inclusive education. Donations to support its work are welcome.
Steve and Asha Williams, husband and wife co-founders of the KCDC, were living in Uganda when their son Sidney was born with epilepsy and a permanent developmental delay.
In the year and a half following his birth, they travelled throughout Uganda and Kenya seeking support, and instead found an absence of organisations positioned to help children with disabilities.
KCDC was born out of that need and has continued to grow. Since opening in October 2014, the KCDC team has grown to more than 45 permanent staff.
Steve, who is originally from Hertfordshire in the UK, has lived in East Africa for 20 years. He says: “The more we looked, the more we realised how many kids needed help.”
Stuart Harley says: “There is a massive need for wheelchairs and mobility aids throughout East Africa. The work Steve and his team are carrying out will make a real difference to people’s lives.
“As a business with strong roots in the community we are pleased to support such an important project.”
The FBW designed workshop has been constructed using sustainable local materials to reduce its environmental impact and is naturally ventilated.