OLD wheelchairs from Airedale Hospital are being recycled to help poverty-stricken disabled people overseas.
The wheelchairs, some of them up to 17 years old, are taken to HMP Garth Prison in Chorley where they are stripped down, rebuilt and repaired in the MCF prison workshop.
So far, about 40 wheelchairs have been supplied by the mobility team at Airedale NHS Foundation Trust.
Volunteer occupational therapists then carry out clinical assessments to ensure the suitability of the chairs, before our partner charity PhysioNet transports them to deprived areas in countries including Fiji, Ghana, Benin, Swaziland and South Africa.
Michelle West, mobility services manager at the trust, said its wheelchairs were always refurbished several times before being replaced and would otherwise be scrapped if they weren’t donated to the scheme.
She added: “This is a fabulous partnership between our hospital, the prison and two local charities and volunteer therapists working back-to-back.
“We are really proud to be involved in this ‘green’ venture, as it enables the trust to be environmentally friendly and promotes sustainable communities whilst giving hope to many people with disabilities living in poverty overseas.
“It also helps to reduce our costs of scrapping mobility equipment.”
It is hoped other health services in the region may also get involved in the initiative.
David Brown, director of the Margaret Carey Foundation, said the project was life-changing for recipients of the chairs.
He spotlighted the case of a boy in India, who before receiving a wheelchair had to drag himself across an earthen floor to attend English language classes.
“When we gave this boy his new wheelchair – which had to be specially adapted due to the shape of his body – a beautiful smile spread over his face,” said Mr Brown.
“This venture makes such a tremendous difference to people’s lives.”
He added that when a video of the boy receiving his wheelchair was shown to one prisoner, it had a profound effect.
“He resolved there and then to amend his ways and reject his life of crime,” said Mr Brown.
“Seeing the video made him realise just how lucky he was compared to the boy in India.”
David Kaye – chairman of PhysioNet – said the charity had been collecting redundant special needs, disability and mobility equipment from health organisations across the UK for the past 16 years to reuse in developing countries.
“Our relationship with the Margaret Carey Foundation is a perfect match,” he added.
“It has access to prison workshops for repairing wheelchairs and we have a growing number of organisations abroad desperate for our equipment.”