Wheelchairs for Kids

District 9790 Governor David McPherson asked his two children, twins, Lily and Liam, to choose the organisation for his partner project during his term as governor. The inspiring project they selected was Wheelchairs for Kids. The Rotary Club of Scarborough in Western Australia founded this project in 1998. They started making wheelchairs from old bike frames using a wooden base. However, the early design had problems and had to be reconfigured several times to get the model right.

From these humble beginnings the wheelchairs are now designed to World Health Organisation guidelines and are constantly tested for strength on equipment designed, built and provided by the Engineering Department at University of Western Australia. The chairs are fully adjustable to allow for a child’s growth and are made to handle rough-terrains and pot-holed tracks. The design consists of solid puncture-proof tyres and a single front wheel.  Each chair comes with a seatbelt, postural separators and a tool kit. A knee rug and soft toy is included in the pack.

The chairs are manufactured in The Wheelchairs for Kids factory in Wangara, Perth. Up to 800 people, ranging in age from 55 to 90, currently volunteer and manufacture 300 chairs a month. These passionate and hardworking volunteers give their time and skills free of charge and therefore minimise manufacturing and administrative costs. 

Volunteers work across three groups:

  • 1. Manufacturing – with 250 working in the factory (50 per day); 
  • 2. Work from home – with 550 volunteers cutting and sewing covers for the wheelchair seat back and restraint cushions, making individual knee rugs and knitting and sewing the soft toys; and
  • 3. Back office – assisting with financial administration, procurement, warehousing, dispatch, website maintenance and promotions.

The volunteers also organise fundraisers so that 100 per cent of the funding goes towards making wheelchairs.

The wheelchairs are packed and dispatched to a network of 65 agencies around the world, who then deliver and assemble the chairs. Just watching the delight on the faces of these disadvantaged, disabled kids, getting into their chairs is so uplifting.

Each chair costs $250-$300 to manufacture and Lily and Liam hope to raise enough to fund the purchase of 150 chairs.

So, come on District 9790 and others, help David’s inspirational children reach their goal and provide 150 Wheelchairs for Kids. And if you haven’t seen Lily and Liam’s video then have a look at it because it is such a heart-warming presentation and project.