SOUTH PORTLAND, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- For the past year, members of Rotary Clubs from throughout southern Maine and New Hampshire's Sea Coast have been gathering used and unwanted canes and crutches to send to people struggling with disabilities in Africa.
Those mobility devices were loaded into a tractor tailer from their storage area at the South Portland Armory, and have begun their long journey overseas to help people in Nigeria get to school and to work, and to regain their dignity.
"They are going to make a difference," stated Ann Lee Hussey, District Governor of Rotary 7780. Hussey, a polio survivor who has visited Nigeria to help eradicate polio, says the need is great.
"I can put a face on every pair of those crutches, because I have seen thousands of people over there that are left crawling on the ground, scooting on their buttocks, dragging themselves on their stomachs," said Hussey. "They have very little hope of ever receiving assistance with their mobility."
"You see some people who are able bodied, but are crippled, they cannot work, they cannot earn a living because of their disability," explained Felix Obadan, a Rotary member who traveled to Maine from Nigeria to help with the effort. "When you see this kind of mobility help comes in, it can be of help so they don't have to be all the time dependant as beggars."
In all, over five thousand units -- from wheelchairs to walkers, crutches to canes - were loaded in to the truck, a great beginning, but far from enough to meet all the need.
"In Kenya alone, it is estimated that there's 3 million people who need mobility devices," explained David Talbot, a volunteer with Crutches 4 Africa. "Our goal is a million units in to Africa, and then spreading out in to the rest of the world. Our final goal is to see that every person that needs a mobility device anywhere in the world has got what they need."
Thanks to the generosity of hundreds of people from throughout northern New England, thousands of people in Nigeria will receive the assistance they need, free of charge, when this first shipment comes in early this fall.
"I know here in America we throw these things away, so I said, 'what an easy project'," stated Dennis Robillard, an organizer of the project from the Saco Bay Rotary. He says now they have got the wheels rolling, they intend to help even more. "We are going to continue doing it for the next couple of years," he said.
If you would like more information on the project, or have old and unwanted mobility devices you would like to donate, you can find more information by heading over to the Rotary 7780's website by clicking here.