Disability project launches in Tanzania

Disability project launches in Tanzania

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This month, Just Wheels, is providing 25 wheelchairs to people with physical disabilities in Tabora in Western Tanzania.  By partnering with a number of organisations in the area, they have helped to identify individuals in need. 

By Emma Burtles, founder of Just Wheels


Life is pretty hard for anyone who is disabled, wherever you live in the world, but life for disabled people in Tanzania, like many other developing countries, is particularly hard.

The issues facing disabled people in Tanzania

Disability and poverty are inextricably inked – being disabled makes it harder to get to school or further education, harder to find a job and harder to maintain health.   Many disabled people live in poverty. In some cases, they also have to deal with the added hardship of discrimination in their community, or even in their family. 

Simply having a good quality, well-fitted wheelchair can make a massive difference, enabling people to go to school or to access training or work, to participate in the community. 

Why Just Wheels? 

Just wheels emerged from a long journey with a group of dedicated people.  I used to live and work in Tabora in Tanzania and became aware of the huge difficulties that people with disabilities faced every day.  I became friends with an amazing man, Edwin Kalukwella, who deals with difficulties every day of his life due to his disability, but his approach is always to do his best, determinedly and with a smile on his face.   

Edwin trained as a wheelchair technician in order to help others.  But so many disabled people are poor and cannot afford to buy a wheelchair and there is no wheelchair or physiotherapy service in Tabora, no NGO’s offering support to disabled people, and a huge need (the government estimates there are 10,500 people in Tabora region alone with physical disabilities), Edwin teamed up with a local physiotherapist, Francis Itoma, and they decided they needed to do something to help. 

With a disabled son myself, I realized the importance of a good quality, well fitted wheelchair.   But we are lucky – we have the wonders of the NHS to help them and to provide the best equipment and service.    I wanted to help some of the disabled people she had met in Tanzania.   

With a lot of discussion, some supportive board members, and a visit to Tanzania, Just Wheels was born.  Registered as a charity in Scotland, Just Wheels is helping to create an independent Just Wheels Tanzania.

Just Wheels Approach

Just Wheels’ focus is currently on Tabora and we are committed to work here for 2 – 3 years, where there is so much need, but requests have been made for Just Wheels to work elsewhere and it is intended to extend to work in other areas in the future when Just wheels Tanzania is ready to support new projects.

We work with partners and are keen to work alongside any organization or community that identifies a need for wheelchairs to enabled disabled people to be active in their community or project.

Just Wheels will always aim to work with local wheelchair workshops, to make, and maintain, the equipment. This keeps business local and maintenance and support easier.  Just wheels will provide training to improve standards to World Health Organisation levels where necessary.

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Just Wheels in Tabora

Just Wheels has partnered with a number of organisations in Tabora who have helped to identify individuals in need.  This includes Chawata, the government disability organization – sadly this has little capacity in Tabora just now – and the Tabora League for Children.  With this collaboration, staff have identified the first 25 recipients of wheelchairs.

Giving an individual a wheelchair is life changing.  But the Just Wheels board realized they needed to help to create a sustainable solution.  So Just wheels is now looking at how to support a wheelchair and physiotherapy service in Tabora.  This work will take place next year.

Capacity Building

Just Wheels is applying for funding, including from the Scottish Government to increase our capacity both in the UK and Tanzania.  We want to be fit for purpose and ready to grow.  Through this process we will be looking at governance, policies and procedures and establish a small grants programme and training for our wheelchair recipients in the future.

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Meet Husnah

Husnah received a wheelchair this month (December 2018).  She, and her grandmother, are thrilled.  She is around 10 years old – her grandmother was not sure of her age – and has has various health issues including polio as a child rendering her unable to walk.  Like so many disabled girls, she has never been to school.

She loves her wheelchair as it means she does not have to be carried by her grandmother and her friends can push her in her wheelchair.  She has started school 2 weeks as a result of getting her wheelchair and her aim is to learn to read so she can read the manual for her wheelchair! 


Read more at www.justwheels.org.uk