Brad Blauser is an American who came here as a contractor and in his spare time founded a charity called "Wheelchairs for Iraqi Kids". WCIK raises money to buy adjustable wheelchairs for children. On Saturday 5 March I joined Brad and a contingent of the US military to distribute wheelchairs to kids in need.
The day started incongruously as we headed out in a large military convoy. We travelled along suburban streets where people shopped and chatted, and children played. Machine gunners above scanned for trouble, and inside these armoured Goliaths we all had helmets and body armour.
But once we were at the distribution point, the formidable soldiers became concerned and caring individuals. Armed men and women held and carried disabled children with a gentleness that is usually the preserve of loving parents can emulate. Three Colonels were among the many soldiers, and while they may be revered on duty, here they knelt before disable children and carefully held their twisted feet as they adjusted the foot rest.
We were divided into five teams to adjust wheelchairs to the children. It was a complicated task, but one of great joy. The children were so excited and happy,
as were their parents. We had been told that once we sat a child in a chair, we had to be careful in taking them out so we could adjust it, as the child might assume the chair was being taken away. Sadly and touchingly that happened repeatedly. The children were so happy to sit on it, and then distraught at the thought they might not get it.
The love of the parents was also humbling. There were children who clearly spent much of their lives lying over the shoulder of their father, and their body shape had started to conform to that posture. The chair was like a new life for the family. But the parents couldn't give up that contact so easily, and they kept hugging the children throughout the process of fitting the chairs.
The smiling faces of the children were not only beautiful, but haunting. Their lives are so tough, and yet I was lucky enough to see their expressions change from sad or concerned to one of happiness that really came from their core. I've attached a few photos, but they capture only a bit of beauty of the day.
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