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Life in a Wheelchair: Jean Pierre’s Story

life in a wheelchair
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How beginning a new chapter, a life in a wheelchair, helped a skilled repairman multiply his daily income by 7.5 and made it possible to support his family again.

It started 13 years ago. Slowly he began to develop paralysis in both legs, and despite the treatment he received, his legs continued to weaken. At the age of 45, Jean Pierre could no longer stand or walk and used his hands to help move from place to place.

life in a wheelchair

Home up the hill

Having lived in rural Rwanda, Africa, he could not stay with his family anymore.  His wife, Therese, and four teenaged children: Jeannette (19), twins Francine and Sylvie (16), and Olivier (13) live at their family home, located on a remote hill deep in the countryside, with the nearest road being at least a quarter mile from their front door. Their home is difficult for anyone to access, and after Jean Pierre lost mobility, he had to move closer to the city, by himself, in order to earn a living.

Jean Pierre makes a living by repairing electronic devices such as cell phones, radios, and watches. He was self-taught and is known for his intelligence, wisdom, and determination. Without a wheelchair, however, his business was limited to customers near his rented room. “I was working from home where the clients were few,” he recalled. “I couldn’t earn even $0.20 a day, so it was difficult to get even a single meal for the family.”

In Rwanda, that has a total population over 12 million, there are at least 450 000 persons with disabilities. Half of them is unemployed.

 Life in a wheelchair

Earlier this year, Jean Pierre received a new wheelchair from Free Wheelchair Mission, a humanitarian non-profit organization that designs and manufactures wheelchairs at no charge for people with disabilities living in under-resourced parts of the world.

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A local distribution partner, Food for the Hungry Rwanda, handed the chair over. 

“But now, with this donated wheelchair, I am able to go to the commercial center where I find more clients than before,” relayed Jean Pierre. “Thus, I can earn about $1.50 per day. Therefore, I’m able to feed and clothe my family members. Moreover, the wheelchair impacted my social and psychological life because I can pay visit to my friends and go to various public gathering easily.”

life in a wheelchair

With his new wheelchair, Jean Pierre is able to go back home and visit his family, whom he worries about while he is away. The tires of his wheelchair allow him to more easily traverse the quarter mile dirt path between the main road and his front door.

life in a wheelchair

“I’m praising God due to his wonderful deeds through Free Wheelchair Mission,” exclaimed Jean Pierre. “I’m wondering, how would my life be without this wheelchair support? I might be dead. Now, I move everywhere to do whatever I want and I’m feeling included in society more than before.”

Invacare and Free Wheelchair Mission

Since 2001 Free Wheelchair Mission has distributed 1.3 million wheelchairs in 94s developing countries worldwide. To achieve this goal, they have partnered with Invacare Europe in a project called Together, for mobility. As part of the project, Invacare Europe is helping Free Wheelchair Mission by raising awareness, generating donations, and sharing knowledge and expertise about product development.

Invacare Europe works with Free Wheelchair Mission to provide free wheelchairs for thousands more people like Jean Pierre. For more information on the project, please read the press release here.


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