Canadian Wheelchair Foundation executive director Christiana Flessner is surrounded by soon-to-be-shipped wheelchairs in the CWF’s South Surrey storage room.

Wheelchair donation ‘gives people their lives back’

South Surrey-based Canadian Wheelchair Foundation aims to help refugees in Turkey.

By summer’s end, thousands of Syrian refugees in Turkey may receive the gift of mobility, thanks to the efforts of residents on the Semiahmoo Peninsula.

The Canadian Wheelchair Foundation – which has its head office at South Surrey’s Morgan Creek Corporate Centre – is in the early stages of a fundraising campaign which aims to send wheelchairs, canes, crutches and walkers to disabled refugees in the European country.

The goal, according to CWF executive director Christiana Flessner, is to fill a 40-foot shipping container with the items – especially wheelchairs – by the end of the summer, and have them shipped and distributed soon after.

The organization has a long history of helping mobility-challenged residents in developing countries; since 2012, the group has distributed nearly 40,000 wheelchairs to people in – among other places – Mexico, Nepal, Panama, Ukraine and Guatemala, as well as to those in need across Canada.

“We’ve covered a lot of ground,” said Flessner.

“It’s life-changing for these people. And not just for the people who receive (wheelchairs), but for their families and the people taking care of them, too, down to the friends who might carry an (immobile) child to school.

“It has a big impact.”

The wheelchairs that CWF ships, Flessner explained, are sturdier than a typical wheelchair in order to stand up to tougher terrain and conditions and last as long as possible. In a store, Flessner estimated it would cost “about six or seven hundred dollars” to buy a similar model, but the CWF can buy and ship one to a recipient for $195.

Typically, the CWF will partner will service organizations both here and in recipient countries – often Rotary clubs, of which there are five on the Semiahmoo Peninsula – to help distribute the items, and Flessner herself has been on a number of trips as well, including multiple trips in the last two years to Ukraine.

“I’ve also spent a lot of time in Germany – I have family there – and over the winter, I volunteered at one of the refugee registration centres,” she explained.

“I’ve learned a lot about displaced people, and their needs… it’s something that’s been close to my heart for a long time, because out in the field, I’ve seen a lot of forgotten people.

“I’ve noticed that governments in many developing countries don’t exactly put a high priority on people with disabilities. There’s just no support.”

In that regard, Flessner is encouraged by the recent creation, by the United Nations, of the Charter on Inclusion of Person with Disabilities in Humanitarian Action, which aims to improve the lives of many of the people the CWF is trying to help. The UN is also very supportive of the CWF’s efforts, she noted.

Flessner and other CWF supporters have seen firsthand the difference their work has on disabled people across the globe. A donated wheelchair allows people to get to school and work, while for some older recipients, simply gives them the opportunity to get outside their homes easier.

“Some people, they just want to be able to be able to go outside again,” Flessner said.

“It gives people their lives back. We’ve had children who’ve received our wheelchairs and for them, it’s their first independent movement ever.”

More than anything, Flessner said the wheelchair donations will provide hope to refugees who for months – even years – have had very little to smile about.

“People in these parts of the world have less hope and have been through so much,” she said.

“Sometimes I wonder if it’s the wheelchair that is good for them, or simply the idea that somebody is thinking and caring about them.”

For information on the Canadian Wheelchair Foundation and its current fundraising efforts for Turkey, visit www.cdnwheelchair.ca

Just Posted

South Surrey woman promotes exercise to help fight Parkinson’s disease

‘This keeps me strong’ says Liz Holroyd Campbell, organizer of the 2019 Parkinson Superwalk

VIDEO: Young balance-bikers race through Surrey’s Civic Plaza at Strider Cup

The course has several obstacles including ‘Mount Scary’ and the ‘Noodle Monster’

White Rock Beer For The Pier to go on sale early this week

Restaurants, bars and liquor stores from Vancouver to Chilliwack will sell new brew

45-year-old ID’ed as victim of South Surrey stabbing

Delphin Paul Prestbakmo died at the scene, near 18 Avenue and 152 Street

‘Potentially life-threatening’ injuries in overnight Surrey crash

Police had Highway 10 between 180th and 186th streets closed for several hours

QUIZ: How much do you remember about Woodstock?

Weekend music festival in Bethel, New York, was held 50 years ago

Chrystia Freeland condemns violence in Hong Kong, backs right to peaceful assembly

There have been months of protests in the semi-autonomous region

B.C. VIEWS: Log exports and my other errors so far in 2019

Plastic bags, legislature overspending turn out differently

‘It’s just the freedom:’ Paralyzed Broncos player pursuing life on the water

The former Humboldt Broncos goaltender, who started in the net when he was nine, was paralyzed last year

Canadians killed in Afghanistan honoured during emotional dedication ceremony

One-hundred-fifty-eight Canadian soldiers died during the mission

It’s snow joke: Up to 30 cm of snow expected to fall in northeastern B.C.

Alaska Highway, Fort Nelson to be hit with August snowstorm, according to Environment Canada

‘I’m just absolutely disgusted’: Husband furious after B.C. Mountie’s killer gets day parole

Kenneth Fenton was sentenced to prison after he fatally struck Const. Sarah Beckett’s cruiser

Sea-to-Sky Gondola in B.C. likely out of commission until 2020

Sea to Sky Gondola carries between 1,500 and 3,000 people every day during the summer season

PHOTOS: Weapons seized at Portland right-wing rally, counterprotests

Not all who gathered Saturday were with right-wing groups or antifa

Most Read

l -->