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Wheelchairs for Haitian refugees
Yellowknife resident fundraises for less fortunate

Adrian Lysenko
Northern News Services
Published Thursday, February 25, 2010

SOMBA K'E/YELLOWKNIFE - Barry Talbot is continuing his humanitarian efforts by starting to raise money to send wheelchairs for victims of the Haiti earthquake.

NNSL photo/graphic

Jose Rodrigues, the mayor of Bacum, Mexico (far left) and Jorge Garcia (middle) present Barry Talbot an award for delivering wheelchairs and helping out a school in the community in April 2009. - photo courtesy of Barry Talbot

"Its become a passion for me," Talbot said. Yellowknife, he added, donates the most wheelchairs of any other city in Canada. Since April 2005, Talbot has delivered more than 1,600 wheelchairs to Mexicans with disabilities.

Compared to his previous donations to Mexico, "the immediate need in Haiti is greater," he said.

"He's been a rock in Yellowknife," said Christiana Flessner, executive director for Wheelchair Foundation Canada.

Prior to the earthquake, the foundation had planned to send wheelchairs for Haitian citizens. Flessner said many Haitians amputees and others with spinal cord injuries are immobile, and the need has increased tenfold since the earthquake. Working with the Health, Education and Sports Foundation (HHS) based in the Dominican Republic, she said wheelchairs will be delivered to Haitian refugees.

"We're working with people on the ground level," Flessner said. "The HHS works with the government and local people in the health system."

She said the first delivery of wheelchairs will be given to high-priority disabled people such as children. Both Talbot and Flessner said the impact of providing a patient with a wheelchair goes well beyond the individual.

"A mother or father who have to stay at home to provide care can now have an income," said Flessner.

The foundation hopes the first shipment of 1,000 wheelchairs will arrive in the Dominican Republic by the end of March. Talbot will be travelling to Obregon City, Mexico, in April to visit an orphanage and doesn't know if he'll be able to travel to the Dominican Republic once the wheelchairs arrive.

"It provides fulfilment in my life," said Talbot. "For us it's 150 bucks but for the people who get the wheelchairs it's a life-changing experience."

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