Call For NHS to Donate Wheelchairs For Overseas Aid

July 2013

Steven Chandler, Acting British High Commissioner in Fiji, called on the international aid community to remember disabled people in developing countries as he presided over the delivery of a container load of children’s physiotherapy equipment donated by PhysioNet and including dozens of wheelchairs refurbished by offenders at HMP Garth.

Speaking to the Spinal Injuries Association of Fiji, the Commissioner supported PhysioNet’s work to encourage the NHS to pass on more of their redundant wheelchairs. He recalled the triumph of Fiji bringing home the Pacific’s first ever Olympic medal at the 2012 London games. He said “Iliesa Delana’s triumph in the Paralympics men’s high jump is an inspiration to us all.

“But for every medal-winning para athlete, there are millions more in the world who are often hidden from view and forgotten.  The British Minister for International Development Lynn Featherstone wrote recently that: “the awful truth is the aid community has also in large part forgotten disabled people.  I do not know whether it is because it is too hard or other priorities win the day.  But we all must do as we would be done by.  Over one billion people 

– 15% of the global population – have a disability and there is a direct link between disability and poverty.  Indeed, disability has a greater impact on access to education than gender or household economic status”.

PhysioNet is one of Margaret Carey Foundation’s charity partners. It was set up in 2005 after Peter Thompson’s visit to a children’s home in Sarajevo, in Bosnia Herzegovina in 2004 where he was asked if he could help find special needs equipment for the children there. Since then, the PhysioNet team of volunteers have helped provide physiotherapy equipment to disabled children in Eastern & Central Europe and in developing countries round the world.

PhysioNet has a close working relationship with Margaret Carey Foundation, taking almost all the 296 wheelchairs refurbished by prisoners at HMP Garth over the past three years and delivering them to people in need in Fiji, Democratic Republic of Congo, Samoa, India and South Africa.


Prison Trainees Helping Others

June 2013

Thanks to funding from Northern Rock Foundation and the Monument Trust, Margaret Carey Foundation is now helping more prisoners than ever before, getting them to work to help people in need all over the world. More than 70 prisoners a week are working on our projects, learning good work habits and skills.

Prisoners are recycling and restoring discarded bikes in five prisons:

  • Everthorpe, near Hull in East Yorkshire
  • Haverigg, in Millom, Cumbria
  • Northumberland, in Morpeth
  • Garth, in Leyland, Lancashire
  • Liverpool

Prisoners are repairing electric mobility aids and gaining certificates in Portable Appliance Testing in one prison:

  • Kirklevington, near Cleveland in North Yorkshire

Prisoners repair wheelchairs in one prison

  • Garth, in Leyland, Lancashire

Every project is a partnership between the prison and our charity. The prison provides the workshop space, workbenches, any available tools, and an instructor. Margaret Carey Foundation encourages all prisons deliver vocational qualifications associated with mechanical skills. Some institutions deliver literacy and numeracy learning pods in conjunction with the workshop to reach prisoners who otherwise will not attend a classroom and we have found this to be very effective.


£600 Raised at Benefit Concert

April 2013

Music-lovers from the Bradford area raised £600 at a benefit concert for the Margaret Carey Foundation. The Steeton Male Voice Choir headlined the concert which also featured Luke Jackson and the Manchester Airport Choir.

The 80-voice Steeton Male Voice Choir recently won the Leeds “Choirs Rock” competition, and last year performed at both the Rugby League World Cup Final at Elland Road and at the World Club Championship at Headingly.  They performed a mixed programme of traditional, classical and modern music.

Luke Jackson was described by Mike Harding as “a great singer, a great songwriter, and a really commanding presence.” Nominated for both the BBC Young Folk Award and the Horizon Award for Best Emerging Talent, Luke has just released his new album, More Than Boys, to outstanding reviews.

TV audiences saw the transformation of 30 baggage handlers, air traffic controllers, fire service and security staff from Manchester Airport into a polished choir under the direction of Gareth Malone in the BBC series, Sing While You Work.


Prisoners Help Ugandan Youngsters

February 2013

More than 100 bikes restored by prisoners at HMP Liverpool and HMP Everthorpe have been donated to an orphanage, a primary school, a hospital and a hospice in Uganda, thanks to our partners at BeCycling Africa.The bikes were originally donated by individuals in the Bradford area of West Yorkshire and by Rotary Clubs across the country and taken by us to our workshops at the prisons.

Chris Armstrong from BeCycling has been working for more than a year to get the bikes to people in need. He sent us this report:

All of our bikes have now finally reached their destination. As you all know getting them there has proved to be a very “laborious” task to say the least. That it has taken over a year from when we packed them in Keighley to them arriving in Kampala almost defies belief.

So far we have distributed bikes to an orphanage where myself, Sarah and our son, Kieran, stayed as volunteers in the west of Uganda near a town called Fort Portal. They have also received educational items that we sent across for the school they were building there. Unfortunately, the primary school there has been all but washed away in recent floods but they are very resourceful and are putting the equipment we sent to good use. Robert at the orphanage has plans to teach youngsters to ride and to use some the bikes we sent for an eco-tourism project which will bring much needed employment and income into a very deprived area.

Another batch of bikes has been delivered to a hospital in a rural suburb of Kampala. They will be used here by hospital outreach workers to visit patients who cannot travel to hospital and live in areas that would be inaccessible without the bikes.

Whilst I was in Kampala, I met a volunteer in a hospice there. A batch of bikes has gone to him so that outreach workers can access patients in rural areas, and he will also use some to go into schools and teach cycling skills and road safety awareness.

Yesterday was car free day in Kampala, and our contact there, Lubega, took some of our bikes along to raise our profile and to contribute to this worthwhile event.

I am very grateful to everyone who donated bikes, to the prisoners and Margaret Carey Foundation for restoring them, to all who helped load the container, and especially to the donors and funders of the project and I am delighted that after so much delay we have been able to make such a real difference to so many lives in some of the poorest areas in the world. 

BeCycling Africa is just one of many charities that Margaret Carey Foundation supplies bikes to. Others include Jole Rider, Jubilee Outreach Yorkshire, International Aid Trust, and PhysioNet.


HMP Liverpool Trainees Speak Out

January 2013

MCF project officer, Katy McCormick, visited our bike project in Workshop 6 at HMP Liverpool (Walton) to award Bronze, Silver and Gold Certificates of Achievement to some of the trainees. These certificates are given when the men reach a certain level of skill, and are also our way of saying thank you for their work. Many of these men have never received a certificate or any kind of acknowledgement before, and it can mean a lot to their self-esteem. She gave a short presentation about the bikes we had recently sent to Bulgaria and listened to some of them men talk about their experience of the workshop. Here is her report:”A really important part of the project is that the men understand what happens to the bikes they repair. I showed them pictures and talked to them about the bikes we sent to Baba Tonka House in Bulgaria.  Bulgaria has the highest number of abandoned children of any country in the EU and these children are kept in huge, state-run institutions with little personal attention or care. Baba Tonka House offers an alternative, supporting disabled children and their families to reduce abandonment. The bikes were an unheard-of treat for the children, and a really useful means of transport for the staff.

I then had a chance to talk to some of the men, asking them about what they liked about the workshop and if they thought they were learning anything that would be useful when they were released.

The feedback about the bikes to Bulgaria made a big impact. “Not being funny but some of the lads had a tear in their eye.” “Makes you think that does. Those kids over there.” “It’s good that you came to talk to us.”

They all agreed they had improved their mechanical skills and some thought it might be useful in the future. “I’ll be able to fix the kiddies’ bikes.” “I wonder how I could set up a project like this when I get out.”

The calm atmosphere in the workshop was a plus. “Every other place I’ve been here I’ve been thrown out. Just my temper. Can’t help it really. But I don’t get stressed here.” “It’s just a good mood in here. Calm.”

The men said that in other workshops each man tends to his own work. Here, they are more likely to work together or help one another out. “Sure, I’ll show him [if he needs help].”

As I left, it seemed to me that the bicycles were almost a by-product. What they are really making in Workshop 6 is self-esteem.