It's amazing what a set of wheels can do for guy! And we're not talking cars. But we're getting ahead of ourselves. Let's go back to the good old days of 1998. That's when Clement Chiwaya, a 28-year-old native of Malawi (southeast Africa) landed in Grand Rapids, Michigan with $500 in his pocket and a desire to attend college.
Shortly after his arrival, he literally hobbled into the offices of Alternative in Motions on a pair of crutches—a victim of childhood polio. Clement told Johnnie of his desire to become a part of campus life, but obviously, traversing around on crutches would make carrying backpacks laden with books next to impossible Now, this is where the set of wheels comes in. Alternatives in Motion did what it does—provided him with a wheelchair, and later a motorized scooter to make campus life a lot easier. Cement's big smile said it all. And he worked hard in college. When summer breaks came along, Clement flew back to his country and spearheaded projects designed to help the people in his village—like installing metal roofs on huts, digging a well so the people wouldn't have to travel three miles to the river for water, planting trees, distributing food—and buying a herd of cows, some chickens, wood stoves and water pumps. With his mobility needs met, Clement was able to graduate from Aquinas College with the college's first-ever bachelor's degree in Community Leadership. After Christmas 2002, Clement returned to his country as a strong leader dedicated to improving life in one of the world's poorest countries.
2006 Update on Clement:
Clement has accomplished so much more since we first helped him out. Campaigning from his wheelchair he was elected to parliament and became a minister in the government of Malawi. In May of 2006 the Honorable Clement Chiwaya had the pleasure of meeting with Bono, lead singer of U2, to offer his assistance in facilitating the relief work Bono had been doing in Africa. Also in May of 2006 Clement was awrded an Honorary Doctorate of Social Sciences from Aquinas College. We offer our congratulations to the Honorable Dr. Chiwaya!
2011 Update on Clement:
Some of our longtime friends and supporters may remember hearing of how we helped Clement, in 1998 and then again in 2006. Clement has had some amazing accomplishments since we initially helped him out.
Campaigning from his wheelchair he was elected to Parliament and became a minister in the government of Malawi. From there he has been spearheading projects to dig new wells, buying a heard of cows, and teaching the members of his village how to grow and distribute their food.
Through his dear friends, Jim and Sandy Rademaker, from The Malawi Connection in Grand Rapids, Clement asked for a small power wheelchair to improve his mobility around the huge parliament building and to use in his village. Jim and Sandy agreed to deliver the wheelchair on their upcoming trip to Malawi and taught Clement how to use it, how to charge it, and how to make any necessary repairs in the event of an equipment malfunction.
In Early November, Jim and Sandy sent back these pictures of Clement. The smile on his face tells us everything we need to know! While 99% of our wheelchair placements take place inside the U.S., with the majority being in west MI, it is an honor to be able to help Clement because of his strong ties to Grand Rapids and his huge heart for the residents of Malawi. There is no doubt that with the help of his new power wheelchair, Clement will continue to Move the People of Malawi Forward!