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Free Wheelchair Mission: Tom’s story

Tam is a motivated 19-year-old who is always eager to learn

She always has been, ever since she was a little girl. Yet, due to her physical disability caused by cerebral palsy, some people have incorrectly assumed that she had a learning disability.

As a child, Tam was unable to walk, stand, or feed herself. Her mother, who used to work as an accountant for a small company, quit her job to became Tam’s full-time caregiver.

Tam never had a wheelchair while growing up. Her father does contract work installing doors and windows in new construction projects that are sprouting up throughout the developing capital city, but the work is sporadic, leaving the family without a steady income.

Without a wheelchair, Tam could not get to school, so her mother began to teach her math and literature at home. Tam’s education has been a high priority for her parents. They saw education as a way forward; a means to give their daughter opportunities to progress beyond their current circumstances.

They live in Thanh Hoa Province, a landscape of craggy mountains jutting over vast green paddy fields. Although Thanh Hoa is the fifth-largest province in Vietnam, its gross domestic product is less than half of the national average. Those living in rural areas such as this often struggle to make a living and migrate to urban areas to seek better opportunities. This is one reason why education holds such great value in Thanh Hoa Province.

This is why Tam desired a wheelchair that would help her go to school.

Enter Free Wheelchair Mission (FWM), a humanitarian non-profit organisation that designs and manufactures wheelchairs at no charge for people with disabilities living in under-resourced parts of the world, like Thanh Hoa Province.

Since 2001, FWM has distributed more than one million wheelchairs, and their big ambition is to provide another million wheelchairs by 2025. To achieve this goal, they have partnered with Invacare Europe in a project called Together, For Mobility. As part of the project, Invacare Europe is helping FWM by raising awareness, generating donations, and sharing knowledge and expertise about product development.

When Tam received her very first FWM wheelchair in 2017, she had the ability to leave her home and pursue her dreams of obtaining a formal education. A sub-distribution partner of FWM in Vietnam introduced Tam to a school that offers vocational training to students who live with disabilities.

Tam was elated to finally have this chance to learn. She enrolled in the information technology program, much to the concern of her teachers: IT students must be able to use a computer keyboard, and Tam is not able to use her hands to do so.

Undaunted, the determined new student learned to use her feet to type into a keyboard, maneuver a computer mouse, and even turn pages in her textbooks.

Tam had originally been given a GEN_2 FWM wheelchair, but the school began to let her use a GEN_1 model while in class. The design of the GEN_1 allows her to more easily use her feet while working at her desk, without worrying about falling out of her seat. After completing her coursework next year, Tam hopes to find employment at an IT support center or copy & print shop.

Invacare Europe is partnering with Free Wheelchair Mission to provide free wheelchairs for thousands more people like Tam, because improving the quality of people’s lives and “making life experiences possible” is Invacare’s primary mission. For more information on the project, read the complete press release here.

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** This post was originally published on https://www.passionatepeople.invacare.eu.com/free-wheelchair-mission-toms-story/