This is a story of devotion and caring that blessed the giver almost more than the recipient.
It happened, and continues to happen, high in the mountains of rural Eswatini, off the beaten path and definitely unnoticed by most.
Enter Free Wheelchair Mission and The Luke Commission.
Twelve-year-old Sibusiso lives with his two grandmas (gogos) in a two-room hut. That by itself is not so unusual in this tiny country where one-fifth of the population has been orphaned by HIV/AIDS. Extended family, usually grandmothers, are left to raise their grandchildren and other orphans in their communities.
However, Sibusiso has battled cerebral palsy since birth. And his devoted gogos have cared for him since birth. He weighs 35 to 40 pounds and looks one third of his age in size.
One of his grandmothers came to a Luke Commission mobile hospital one day in early 2013 to ask for a wheelchair for her beloved boy.
The Luke Commission co-executive director Echo VanderWal listened to the grandma’s plea and knew she had an answer. Give the boy one of the Free Wheelchair Mission chairs which TLC packs in trailers and carries to every outreach site.
It’s a partnership The Luke Commission values, to be sure!
Sibusiso had a dilapidated wheelchair which he had sat in day in and day out for years. It was so worn that when Sibusiso fell on an uncovered screw from a broken arm rest, he poked his eye so severely that a traumatic cataract developed. The boy can no longer see out of that eye.
He also was having more trouble than usual swallowing food. His grandma was worried about him losing weight.
“Let’s go find his homestead,” said Echo, instructing her team to pack up a newly assembled wheelchair, medications to fight infections, and some feeding equipment.
Grandma led the way a few kilometers down the road away from the rural Liswati school where TLC’s mobile outreach was in full swing, treating hundreds of patients.
“We know there are crowds everywhere waiting for treatment, but each patient is important. We must follow the need wherever it takes us,” said Echo.
Other members of The Luke Commission team accompanied her, including Fortunate who would translate.
The two-room hut was swept clean but contained only two mattresses, a table and chair, and the boy’s old wheelchair.
The grandmothers welcomed the visitors and clapped their hands with delight when they saw the new wheelchair. Echo showed the grandmas how to feed the boy with a syringe and assured them the antibiotics she brought would fight his latest infection.
“Those women are my heroes,” noted Echo. “They care for this boy with such love.”
Later, the grandmothers gently placed Sibusiso is his new chair. He smiled and waved his arms in silent recognition of his most-treasured gift.
All the guests had tears in their eyes as they watched. Thank you Free Wheelchair Mission for being there, too!By Janet Tuinstra of The Luke Commission for Free Wheelchair Mission