Indonesia lacks services and infrastructure for people with disabilities. This means that many children and adults, and particularly those living in villages where the rough terrain is not suitable for normal wheelchairs, are confined to their homes. To try to rectify this dire situation, Eco Living Bali, a supplier of sustainable products made from natural ingredients, and East Bali Bamboo Bikes, which falls under the East Bali Poverty Project that helps isolated communities, joined forces to make the very first all-terrain wheelchair in Southeast Asia. The prototype, which was ready in March this year, took around eight weeks to produce.
As the parents of a disabled child, the issue of access has been dear to the hearts of the founders of Eco Living Bali, Brad and Twone Moreland. The inspiration for an all-terrain wheelchair came when the duo heard of the plight of a 12-year-old boy in North Lombok from Duncan Ward, the Founder of Classroom of Hope, an organization that helps to provide access to education for children in developing countries. “Nasrudin lost his standard wheelchair in the 2018 earthquake and had to drag himself through the dirt to get to school. We decided that we had to help him get a wheelchair that would withstand the rough terrain of the village, and that’s how the idea of an all-terrain wheelchair was born,” says Brad.
After numerous brainstorming sessions, the team decided to build their prototype from materials that are easy to source and repair in Indonesia. The wheelchair frame, laminated seat, backrest, foot rest and rear basket are all made from bamboo sourced from the slopes of Mount Agung in Ben village. The wheelchair is protected with environmentally-friendly lacquer and sealant to ensure that it withstands rough weather conditions. The decision was also made to use mountain bike wheels suitable for steep or uneven terrain. “As there is already a short supply of metal wheelchair parts in Bali, we wanted to find an alternative solution, and as owners of an eco store, we wanted to find a sustainable solution. As bamboo is found in abundance in Bali and throughout Asia, a bamboo wheelchair could be easily repaired by a bamboo artisan in a village,” Brad says, adding that each wheelchair has to be custom made to fit the beneficiary’s requirements.
Up to date, Eco Living Bali and East Bali Bamboo Bikes have funded and built three bamboo wheelchairs. The first wheelchair, or the prototype, is currently on display in the Eco Living Bali shop in Kerobokan. The two other wheelchairs have been handed over to those in need. Nasrudin, who was the inspiration behind the project, received the second wheelchair, while the third wheelchair was donated to 15-year-old Nengah Macika, the son of one of the East Bali Bamboo Bikes craftsmen from Ban Village. “We have a growing list of underprivileged children and adults in Bali and Lombok who require all-terrain wheelchairs, and we are currently seeking funding to make them,” says Brad. “We are initially only targeting Bali and Lombok, however, we plan to expand to other islands soon and then hopefully the rest of Asia.”
As the issue of access for people with disabilities is close to Ben and Twone’s hearts, they do not make any profit from this venture. As such, Eco Living Bali urgently requires funding to build more wheelchairs. Each wheelchair sponsor will receive a certificate and a photo of the wheelchair their contribution helps to build. Those who sponsor an entire wheelchair will have their name or logo placed on the chair.
Nengah Macika’s Story
Macika was a healthy baby until three months of age when he developed high fever and suffered several seizures. Since then, Macika’s growth and mobility have been affected. He is also non-vocal and struggles to communicate with his family. Until 2004, when the East Bali Poverty Project established monthly parent-baby health posts in neighboring Cegi, there were no health facilities near Ben village, where Macika lives. In 2005, the East Bali Poverty Project found a volunteer professional massage therapist who trained Macika’s parents to give him daily massages, but he has shown little improvement. While Macika’s mobility remains restricted, his new all-terrain bamboo wheelchair means that he can now get around more freely.
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