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  • Writer's pictureHannah Foster-Middleton

Amazing Gifts for The Bahamas Association for the Physically Disabled.


Life has a way of making us humble and being the complex mixture that it is, we are often faced with a dilemma - to celebrate the wonderful and compassionate actions of some who relieve suffering, while we know that humanity can also deliver carelessness and indifference to those in need whether challenged physically or mentally. We can smile and be grateful for the generosity of giving and making a difference yet shed many tears for those unfortunate enough to suffer life’s seemingly random, cruel moments when it inflicts life-defying disabilities. Tears don’t achieve anything but seeking solutions with teamwork does - and at The Bahamas Association for the Physically Disabled (BAPD) many hands work together to take care of everyday duties: Linda Smith, Director, plus two aides; Charlotte Albury, President and Hannah Foster-Middleton, Physiotherapist.

 

The mission of BAPD is multi-functional, meaning that they are a day-care facility for physically disabled children providing breakfast, lunch, and snacks, four days a week as well as special education, and currently have an enrolment of between 16 and 19 children of varying ages. They teach computer training and the children receive physical therapy. BAPD provides an environment dedicated to promoting self-esteem and improving social skills with the goal of functionally independent living being attained wherever possible. As was the case for everyone, the Pandemic brought many changes and obstacles for all of us and it is an ongoing challenge for BAPD to find funds for all the many daily needs that arise for teaching and supplies, including big-ticket items such as equipment. A recent surprise helping hand was offered by ALIV when their Executive visited the center to be followed up with a wonderful surprise gift of new tablets for each child.

 

With determination, other solutions can be sought and found and relationships formed that bring benefits. This past Friday and Saturday, April 29th and 30th BAPD was blessed with an outpouring of loving care and generosity from two companies out of the US: Progressive Pediatric Therapy and Falk Prosthetics & Orthotics. Their team came to Nassau with an incredible gift of time, love, labor, and professional, hands-on expertise together with their generous donations of wheelchairs and orthotics for the children with special needs. Their visit was facilitated by the generosity of others who were willing to give: Breezes who offered free accommodation for the visitors; Jet Blue’s Humanitarian Aid allowed them to bring the extra luggage with supplies (also donated), free of charge; and the Bahamas government waived duty and vat on the wheelchairs when they were shipped and the shipping cost was also discounted. Amazing teamwork.

 

Although the physical challenges cannot be measured with a cure, because there is none for those suffering from Cerebral Palsy, birth traumas, or similar illnesses, it is possible to make life more bearable and a little easier for young disabled children, parents, or caregivers. This means everything to them and these are things we can do. For those of us lucky enough to enjoy good health and mobility, it may be a challenge to understand just how enormous and life-changing the equipment is unless we see for ourselves, but for the child and caregiver receiving such help, it makes a huge difference to their everyday quality of life.

 

On Friday and Saturday, everyone at BAPD, Linda, Charlotte, and Hannah worked to exhaustion with the professional team from Progressive and Falk. Mary Pengelly, Jennifer Norton, and Justin Kuntze came to Nassau for a weekend of diagnosis, remedial therapy, and individual fitting of shoes and orthoses - all of which take time and patience with each child. Bath chairs and wheelchairs were individualized to fit each child and one electric chair was given to a little girl who had enough mobility to help herself. Her smile alone was enough to tell the world how important that gift was. Sixteen (16) wheelchairs in total were delivered for use at the center and another shipment is on its way for the children to use at home. The equipment alone was a huge gift when you think of the cost, for instance, of a wheelchair; they start around $8,000 per chair (the kind that needs someone to push it) and range up to $20,000+ for an electric chair that can be operated by the user. As far as it is possible the shoes and orthoses come in all sizes and these days are made to look as pretty as possible with different designs and colors for boys and girls and again are individually adjusted to each child.

 

While this is a heartwarming “good news” story, the need, the work, and support required to help those in need in a practical way, is ongoing and if you can help by any means, every small gift of time, money, or in-kind makes it all possible. Social Services and Ministry of Education cannot cover everything and parents and caregivers are always challenged between working when possible to support the family yet still trying to deliver the kind of continuous care the children need. It is important to remember that there is no respite for parents in these circumstances, and no care available for the caregivers. Something else, as a community we need to think about. Until then and for people and children who seem  “other” than us, we can’t say we are a just or humane society if we don’t do what we can. If you can be of help in any way, you can contact Mrs. Linda Smith, BAPD, at 242 456 0228; e-mail lin63smith@gmail.com or info.bapd@gmail.com. “If we want to go fast we travel alone, if we want to go far, we travel together.” Let’s aim far, for the future.


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