By Tina Mata’afa-Tufele Elise. A physical disability kept seven-year-old Sandra Ah Ching of Sinamoga confined to her home for years.
While her brothers moved about, attended school daily, played freely, and participated in all the physical activities children enjoy, Sandra could not.
When her brothers accompanied their parents to the Fugalei Market to help out at the family banana chips stall, Sandra stayed home.
Then life changed extraordinarily when she received a wheelchair from L.D.S. Charities, the humanitarian arm of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
“There is a huge change in my daughter. Her siblings bicker about who gets to push her around in the wheelchair but Sandra she would rather push herself. She is quite an independent girl,” Lauano Aukuso Ah Ching, 59, said last Friday.
“My daughter cannot walk so I used to carry her around but I am getting old and I have a bad leg so she got too heavy for me. But now she has a wheelchair. My daughter is so incredibly happy. She can go anywhere now. The wheelchair changed her life.”
For some time, Sandra’s father looked high and low at shops in Samoa for a wheelchair to purchase. Lauano also searched the internet.
When he expressed frustration about securing and paying for a wheelchair with a friend of the family, it was then he learned about the work of L.D.S. Charities.
Sandra received her wheelchair after two appointments at the L.D.S. Charities office in Motootua.
Lauano received a consultation at the first appointment. In the second appointment, L.D.S. Charities calibrated the wheelchair to fit Sandra’s size, height and weight.
After the adjustments were made for the seven-year-old, she took her new wheelchair home.
“I really want to take this opportunity to express our gratitude and say thank you to Posenai Patu and everyone at L.D.S. Charities for this wheelchair. I went looking for a wheelchair and I didn’t know about L.D.S. Charities. Then someone told me where to go and who to talk to,” said Lauano.
“Posenai and his people took the time to adjust and customize the wheelchair for my daughter. They adjusted the armrests to fit Sandra. They modified the seat so she can sit and ride her wheelchair comfortably. They provided training so she knows how to use the wheelchair. I am grateful to God for this wheelchair.”
Soon after Sandra received her wheelchair, she was out and about in Apia.
Her first stop was the Fugalei Market where her mother and father sell banana chips and other produce.
Immediately, Sandra drew attention among the children at the market. She was making friends and socializing in no time.
Her siblings had to contend with other children at the market to see who would push Sandra and her wheelchair around the market.
“The children at the market were so excited to see Sandra and her new wheelchair. They were gathering around my daughter and she was making so many new friends. People were coming up to meet her, giving her gifts and someone even gave her money. She can now join us so we can do things as a family,” Lauano said.
Sandra comes from a big family with roots in Leauvaa, Salailua (Savai’i), Fagaloa and Safotu.
Now that she has wheels, Sandra is seemingly unstoppable, her father said.
“My daughter, she cannot walk, but her mind works just fine. We call her the reporter of the house. You can’t get anything past Sandra. She takes note of every single thing that goes on in the house when we are not there and she reports it back to us,” said Lauano.
“She is so excited that she is making new friends, she can go outside and play. She wants to do so many things and go places and now she wants to go to school. From the bottom of our hearts, I thank Posenai and his team for the work they do for the children and people of Samoa. I pray for God’s abundant blessings upon Posenai and his people for the work they do. My daughter is very happy.”