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

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

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Residents of 15156 Victoria Ave. say they’re at risk of losing their affordable housing, from left, Elizabeth Soper, Jack, Jane, Dan, Anthony. (Aaron Hinks photo)
White Rock tenants, landlord to go to RTB hearing over ‘renoviction’

Low-income tenants dispute claim they must relocate for work to be completed

A woman crosses 176th Street in Cloverdale April 12, 2021. 176th will not host Cloverdale Market Days this year as the popular street fest is just the latest casualty in the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo: Malin Jordan)
Cloverdale Market Days cancelled again

Organizer says popular street fest will return in 2022

Researchers say residents should leave sleeping bats alone while they exit hibernation. (Cathy Koot photo)
Spring ‘signal’ brings White Rock, Surrey bats out of hibernation

Community Bat Programs of BC says it’s best to leave sleeping bats alone

Marchers supporting Indian farmers rallied in Surrey last month, from Bear Creek Park to Holland Park along King George Boulevard. (File photo: Tom Zillich)
Surrey MP says mayor’s motion to support Indian farmers is his to make

“He has his own sovereignty, right,” Sukh Dhaliwal says

Crescent Beach Yacht Club was ordered closed on April 13 due to COVID-19, according to a post on the club’s Facebook page. (Contributed photo)
Two South Surrey businesses among several shuttered for at least 10 days due to COVID-19

Fraser Health posting list of workplaces closed under new public health order

A woman wears a protective face covering to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 as she walks past the emergency entrance of Vancouver General Hospital in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, April 9, 2021. COVID-19 cases have been on a steady increase in the province of British Columbia over the past week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Top doctor warns B.C.’s daily cases could reach 3,000 as COVID hospitalizations surge

There are more than 400 people in hospital, with 125 of them in ICU

B.C. Premier John Horgan wears a protective face mask to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. Premier John Horgan booked to get AstraZeneca shot Friday

‘Let’s show all British Columbians that the best vaccine is the one that’s available to you now,’ he said

Doses of the Moderna COVID‑19 vaccine in a freezer trailer, to be transported to Canada during the COVID-19 pandemic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Canada’s incoming supply of Moderna vaccine slashed in half through end of April

Moderna plans to ship 650,000 doses of its vaccine to Canada by the end of the month, instead of the expected 1.2 million

Dr. Bonnie Henry speaks about the province’s COVID-19 vaccine plans during a news conference at the legislature in Victoria. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
P.1 variant likely highest in B.C. due to more testing for it: Dr. Henry

Overall, just under 60% of new daily cases in the province involve variants

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

The father of Aaliyah Rosa planted a tree and laid a plaque in her memory in 2018. (Langley Advance Times files)
Final witness will extend Langley child murder trial into May or June

Lengthy trial began last autumn with COVID and other factors forcing it to take longer than expected

A crossing guard stops traffic as students wearing face masks to curb the spread of COVID-19 arrive at Ecole Woodward Hill Elementary School, in Surrey, B.C., on Tuesday, February 23, 2021. A number of schools in the Fraser Health region, including Woodward Hill, have reported cases of the B.1.7.7 COVID-19 variant first detected in the U.K. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
COVID-infected students in Lower Mainland schools transmitting to 1 to 2 others: data

Eight to 13 per cent of COVID cases among students in the Lower Mainland were acquired in schools, B.C. says

Dr. Bonnie Henry – in a B.C. health order that went into effect April 12 – granted WorkSafe inspectors the power to enforce workplace closures with COVID-19 spread. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
24 workplace closures being enforced in Fraser Health under new COVID-19 order

WorkSafe inspectors the power to enforce closures if COVID-19 has spread to 3 or more employees

Maple Ridge Fire and Rescue were conducting training operations at Gold Creek Falls when a firefighter broke their leg. (Eileen Robinson photo - Special to The News)
Firefighter suffers broken leg during swift water rescue practice in Golden Ears park

A training exercise at Maple Ridge waterfall on Wedesday results in mishap

Most Read