DRACUT – On Saturday, Rotary Club members from Dracut and Littleton, along family and friends, gathered in Dracut to unload a truck of donated crutches, canes, walkers and wheelchairs, reloading them into a shipping container headed for a developing nation where local Rotarians are waiting to distribute the mobility devices to the people who need them.
On hand was Dave Talbot, a Denver resident and member of the Mountain Foothills Rotary Club of Colorado. Talbot is himself a polio survivor. A photographer and film maker, Dave encountered a polio victim while shooting a documentary in Uganda.
“She was twisted and unbelievably crippled,” said Talbot. “Someone had fashioned a crutch for her out of a tree branch.” According to Talbot, this woman inspired the Crutches 4 Africa project. “People around the world are crawling on their hands and knees and we have mobility devices in our basements and garages that we don’t know what to do with,” said Talbot.
Crutches 4 Africa is now an International Project with Roatry Clubs working together worldwide. This container includes items collected in Massachusetts, Maine and upstate New York. “The goal is to ship a million mobility devices,” said Dave adding, “but the real end goal is to get mobility devices to everyone in the world how needs them.” According to Talbot, “this could be the next Polio Plus Project for Rotary International…mobility for polio victims and victims of accidents or land mines worldwide.”
Talbot connected with Chuck Moran of Dracut Rotary through the recent Rotary International Convention in New Orleans. “This was the perfect International Project for the Club,” said Moran. The Dracut Club launched its Crutches 4 Africa drive at Dracut Old Home Day in September. “We’ve been collecting crutches ever since,” said Chuck.
Clubs in Maine have been collecting mobility devices since spring. “In May we shipped 5,514 devices to Nigeria,” said Talbot. “A Rotary Club in Nigeria was there to accept the shipment. Now there are 67 clubs in Africa distributing the devices to the people who need them.”
According to Dave, that’s why the project is successful. “On one of my trips to Africa I encountered a woman crawling on her hands and the stumps of her legs that had been amputated. She was literally 18” off the rocky ground. We got a wheelchair to a local Rotary Club that passed it on to a local church pastor who gave it to the woman. Get the device into the hands of a local hero,” said Talbot.
Crutches 4 Africa is also accepting donations. “It costs us $3 per device to ship them,” said Dave. The project is hoping that clubs will join them in this $3 million fundraising effort. That money will fund a trust that will support the project, according to Talbot.
What does the local club get out of participating? That’s simple, according to Dave. “This is a green effort. We are recycling those crutches and walkers and getting them to where the need is desperate.” Beyond that, the effort builds local connections and promotes Rotary in communities. “In Colorado, we’re partnering with local fire departments. They are providing drop-off locations and the clubs are collecting the devices and promoting the effort.”
In addition, Crutches 4 Africa is a development tool for local clubs, according to Dave. “When people see what Rotary is all about, they want to get involved,” he said.
For Dave Talbot, Crutches 4 Africa is meeting the most basic human right for people…mobility. For Chuck Moran and the Dracut Rotary Club this is a win-win international project. “We’re helping people in our community recycle crutches and wheelchairs and we’re getting them to the people who need them,” said Chuck.