BY LAURA TESTER
Pictured above: Alex Walls and the rest of her family, mother Mona, brother Gordie and father Roger, pose with occupational therapist named Veronica who works closely with A Better World Canada, Ndanai Small Home for the Physically Challenged and the community at large to identify and evaluate children with disabilities.
In a remote area of Kenya, a family of four from Red Deer began early in the day helping children with disabilities.
The Walls family — Mona, Roger, Alex, and Gordie — are visiting Ndanai Small Home for the Physically Challenged in the central region of Kenya where support can often be hard to come by.
They each had an important role to fulfill. Mona, a physiotherapist for the past 29 years, would assess and treat children at the home or those who had come from the surrounding community. Roger, a civil engineer and avid cyclist, would help with bike repairs and also teach the older youth how to fix the bikes themselves.
Alex, a recent Bachelor of Science graduate, was set up at the intake station for processing children’s medical histories, while Gordie, a lifeguard, was the all-round go-to person for any help that was needed.
They came for a couple of weeks to be a part of A Better World Canada’s physiotherapy volunteer trip. It didn’t matter that three of them didn’t have these treatment skills.
“The first two times (Mona) went to Kenya, I declined because I wasn’t sure what kind of role I could fill on a physiotherapy rehab trip,” said Roger. “I said that if she goes a third time, then I’ll go with her.”
Soon after their daughter Alex, 22, and son Gordie, 19, were on board, too.
The two-week trip in late February wound up being a great way for the Walls to create positive family memories as they served some of Kenya’s less fortunate, and for a short time in Rwanda as well.
With the help of another husband, Winston, on the trip, Roger repaired bicycles and checked over wheelchairs before sending them into town for minor welding. He taught bike maintenance and also assembled an all-terrain wheelchair donated by Red Deer charity, The Lending Cupboard.
Alex inputted information on the children and then referred them onto a physiotherapist. She also looked after every piece of technology the team brought along.
“It sounds like a small job to collect names and medical history, but working through a translator… and most children had never seen a health-care professional before, so they didn’t have any diagnosis,” said Mona. “So you really had to problem solve.”
Gordie was the “everything kid” according to his sister. He built standing frames for children with disabilities, took photos of children in various rehabilitation positions and even took first-ever snapshots of families.
The volunteers also spent a day at a Rwandan community centre giving advice to mothers of disabled children.
Mona ensured her family had some fun times together as well. They visited a Nairobi area elephant orphanage, boated on Lake Naivasha, and stayed at a nice game park hotel. They also took a gorilla tour in Rwanda. Alex was pleased to go on a “free trip” thanks to her parents.
“I didn’t know what I was really getting myself into,” said Alex, 22.
Her adventure included staying in a little shack she called a “chicken coop.” She slept on a bed, however the mosquito net she brought along was too short, so that made her nervous.
The nearby rooster woke the family at 5:30 a.m. — and to a beautiful sunrise.
The Walls found it was easy to be together and with five other volunteers. The team treated at least 100 people involving several clinics. Four physiotherapists were on the trip.
The Walls returned home on March 3. While they say the trip is expensive, it’s also tax receiptable.
So what kind of families might want to go on a volunteer trip with A Better World Canada?
The Walls suggested families who are both flexible and adventurous.
“You have to be willing to roll with the punches,” said Roger.
And be prepared for it to be amazing, too.
“And you get that fulfilment of helping other people, which means a lot,” said Roger.