A plea for help by Gold Coast volunteers who convert old bicycles into wheelchairs has proven so successful they hope to soon start shipping excess pushies to disadvantaged people living in Africa.
In August 2015, the ABC published a story about a bicycle shortage that was preventing Surfers Sunrise Rotary Club members from building wheelchairs for people in third-world countries.
Wheelchair Aid Project co-founder Daryl Sanderson said the response to the story was “huge”.
“We had an unbelievable result with people ringing us with bikes,” he said.
“We even had one bloke give us a van to go and collect the bikes.”
Mr Sanderson and Des La Rance, both members of Rotary, started the Wheelchair Aid Project together with a third person 21 years ago, and now there are more than 550 people involved directly and indirectly.
They said they enjoyed spending their Saturdays together at a community shed in Parkwood.
Mr La Rance said so many unwanted bikes were sent from around Australia that the shed was now littered with old bikes.
“Now we probably have 2,500 to 3,000 bicycles here — more than what we really need,” Mr La Rance said.
Last week, Uganda Cycling Association president Sam Muwonge, who was in Australia for the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, inspected the Wheelchair Aid Project shed.
He was interested to see how bicycles were converted into wheelchairs, but saw the potential benefit of sending the old bikes to Africa, where they could be repaired and given to underprivileged children.
“They will do the bicycles up using bits and pieces from other bikes,” Mr La Rance said.
The Ugandan official is trying to arrange for a container of bikes to be shipped to his country.
The lack of high quality cycling equipment among some African nations competing at the Games was recently highlighted when the team from Ghana arrived on the Gold Coast with old and damaged equipment.
Local cyclists rallied, donating funds and gear to help the team.
The Wheelchair Aid Project began when Mr La Rance went on holidays to Fiji with his family and saw crippled siblings sharing a wheelchair.
“The brother ended up having to take the wheelchair off her, because she borrowed it off him,” he said.
“They just end up dragging themselves along on the carpet.”
The cabinetmaker returned home wanting to do something to help.
“I came up with the simple idea of a wheelchair made up out of two bicycle frames,” he said.
After building a few prototypes that proved difficult to manoeuvre, Mr La Rance woke up one night with a new design idea.
“I jumped out of bed and ran down and cut the bicycle frames … used the back part of the forks and bolted them together on a piece of structural ply,” he said.
Since then, volunteers have built about 8,500 wheelchairs and supplied them to 31 countries.
Now Mr La Rance said he was focusing his attention on designing a mobile birthing clinic that would eventually be sent to Kenya.
“Over there women and children are dying because they have nowhere to give birth.”
Two converted shipping containers will be fitted with birthing beds supplied by the Gold Coast University Hospital.
“I came up with this design of a birthing clinic made up of two 40-foot containers,” he said.
“When the containers go there, they’re just dropped into position. A simple idea.”