Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Tricycle Wheelchair Distribution

Meet Si-Ei and Poo-Ngun

Si Ei (brown shirt) and Poo-Ngun (white t-shirt) are two women who are in training at a local training institute for handicapped women. They both got polio when they were under a year old and now rely on crutches or wheelchairs to get around. Many months ago they recieved tricycle wheelchairs to help them get around outside. (We couldn't post the blog at that time because the photos wouldn't post and the story is rather dull without the photos.)

When we asked them where they were going to go first with their new mode of transportation, they replied to the market and to school.

Si-Ei is 20 years old and comes from northern Laos. She comes from a family with 5 children. She didn't go to school mostly because of her disablity so she can't read or write. At the center, she is enjoying the training in weaving. Poo-Ngun is 22 years old and come from Vang Vieng, a town about 3 hours from Vientiane, the capital city and a popular weekend destination for city people. As a young girl she went to school and learned to read, write and do math. These skills come in handy for her training in sewing. One day she hopes to go back to Vang Vieng and have a small shop in her home where she will sew clothing for her friends and neighbors.

How do the wheelchairs operate?

As you can see from this photo of the young man, there is a hand lever between the legs of the operator. The operator pushes back and forth on this lever which turns the back axel and the tricycle moves forward. There is only one hand brake because the other hand stays on the lever. Once people have practiced a bit they can become quite good at manouvering around.

You can see that he has stowed his crutches under the seat as well. When he gets where he is going, he will take them out and be able to get around inside a building.

More about Polio

We were under the mistaken assumption that polio had been eradicated from the world. Here' what the Mayo Clinic has to say about the dreaded disease:

  • One of the most feared diseases of the 20th century, polio has been eradicated from the developed world but remains a threat in poorer nations.

  • The poliovirus ... can be transmitted through contaminated water and food — there's some evidence that flies may spread the virus to food — or through direct contact.

  • It's so contagious that anyone living with an infected person is likely to become infected too.


Although improved sanitation on the public level and fastidious hygiene on the personal may help reduce the spread of polio, the only real way to prevent the disease is with the polio vaccine. However, efforts to banish polio worldwide face major obstacles. Some communities in parts of the world, concerned about the safety of the vaccine, have resisted immunizations. In other areas, war and civil disorder prevent health workers from reaching vulnerable populations. In addition, travelers in under-vaccinated countries may unwittingly carry the virus into previously polio-free zones.