Man waits 20yrs for a wheel chair

Whenever I bring a wheel chair to Bali I feel honoured and blessed I can play a small part in improving someones quality of life just a little bit.  This is just one of many stories.

Endang Stelmach of Bali Community Services advised me she needed a chair quickly for a man in a small village in Gianyar Regency.  This is all I knew of the man in need.

My Lions group, Apple Maq Users Group and Lions Aid and Relief Centre based in my home town of Brisbane answered my call and again supplied me with a super, almost new, fancy chair.  I was so happy, it was a really great chair.  Being last minute I was left with little time to raise the $130 I needed to get this and another kiddies (see Mayday September 2012 update) chair to Bali.  Having just paid top dollar for my ticket I simply couldn’t afford to absorb this cost as I usually do.  I put the word out on Facebook, and I gotta tell you, the silence was golden.  Now what?  Shawn Derschow of Port Hedland who has been a wonderful supporter of my efforts received a frantic email message and came to my rescue.  He took off to deposit the cash into my bank during his lunchtime, gee, thank you so very much to Shawn for being part of the puzzle that makes this happen.

Wednesday 12th September Endang, Leon, Shona-Sea and myself headed out to the village of Sumita in the Gianyar region.  This is when the full details of the plight of Setiawan became known to me.

Setiawan is the only boy of seven children.  At 15 he was already established in business as an artist and carver of intricate timber entry doors when he fell from his bicycle into the rice paddies.  Gradually he lost use of his legs and lower body and for 20 years has dragged himself around on his hands causing his hands to become deformed and claw like, his back arched severely. He is now under the care of Bali Community Services  and their wonderful medical volunteers Doni and Rena.  He is having hydro therapy, being washed and clothed regularly, physiotherapy on his hands in preparation for his wheel chair.  Amazing work, it is a long way and very difficult conditions.  Just handing over a chair felt so small but I feel so blessed and grateful to be able to play any part and happy enough with that.

Mum, Dad, family all present on our arrival, I hadn’t anticipated how much and long they had waited for this moment to come for Setiawan.  We were greeted with such warmth.  Setiawan was on a very low old rotton couch chair behind the counter almost in the dark.  ‘Quick get him up from there’ I thought, oh how terrible for him. How have we allowed this to happen.  Getting Setiawan into his chair he seems overwhelmed even a little frightened about all the fuss.  I was numb with emotion at first, the tears of joy in Mum and Dads eyes, oh, that was pretty cool.  I was crying, Shona-Sea had lost it, We were screaming with our wide eyes, no words were adequate at that minute.  Getting him out the small doorway was not going to happen so out and back in it was and onto the small concreted area at the front of the small family run took. (Iwill make sure we fix that doorway next trip if not already done). Now he is on the other side of the counter and in a wheel chair.  Holding his hand I could feel how happy he was and I can only hope he felt my overwhelming joy.  Out onto the road being wheeled by Doni, so very special for me to watch his face light up when people passed on their motorbikes smiling, the kiddies in the school next door all looking over the brick fence waving and happy.  WOW, how very humbling.  Setiawan was overwhelmed, his eyes said it all.  Not too much at first we head back to the family home where we were given fresh coconuts to drink.  We discussed the length of time Setiawan should be in his chair each day at this early stage, we knew it would be painful to be in a sitting position again after so long dragging himself around like an animal, slowly slowly.  I was told how Setiawan had created the amazing carved doors before us.  We were told of the treatments he was being given.  This is the next stage for Setiawan and he can now progress in leaps and bounds and become a little more independent, useful to his family, less of a burden, have some dignity, bloody BAGUS!  Changes the entire families lives not just his.  The enormity of what I was watching was beginning to become clear.  I was probably around this time I stared to realise how freaking angry Setiawan must be it took us so long to serve him in the most basic way, as fellow humans.  How very compassionate of him to so easily forgive us and smile when he must have had some sort of anger surely. Far out I was angry with myself and every one of the tourists who come to Bali with empty bags and full wallets, money to spend on frivolous knick nacks instead of so easily helping make someones life a little easier and more dignified.  I have no doubt if it is put to us all that way we would of course make the right decision, and that is the problem peeps, in our big wide, western world of consumerism, we just don’t think!  Time to go so we again all want to see Setiawan and how he was going on the sunny side of the counter with Mum and family all checking him out.  Several of the local school kids had now gathered around also looking fascinated, so cute.  This was big folks, what we had just helped happen.  We left and were all rather quiet driving back, mine were mixed emotions of joy, happiness, sadness, disbelief, shame, anger, lots of anger and finally relief, relief that we had finally served as we were put on this earth to do, even if it did take 20 years for this man to get a wheel chair.  Hopefully we don’t fail so dismally again and we get better at being aware and making the effort to find out and know what is happening around us.


Endang called me in tears two days after we had delivered Setiawan’s wheel chair with an update. The call ended in squeals of glee and tears of joy.  Rena and Doni had travelled to the village to give Setiawan his therapy.

THEY COULDN’T FIND HIM…………….He was out

this is a young man with a new life ahead

Now famous in town, so busy chatting and socialising now he can get to people!  OMG. He wants to begin painting again.  And therein people lies the moral of the story, sheez, wow, I am gracious and humbled.

I will follow up on Setiawan and his family in the future and keep you all updated on his progress and what I am sure will be a successful carving and painting career and enjoying being a valuable member of his community.

photos to follow…..later today, okay today i will figure it out

maiden voyage

school kids beginning to gather

a very proud moment for each and every person in this picture



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3 responses to “Man waits 20yrs for a wheel chair

  1. Robyn

    You are a HELL of a woman to take this Community Service so intensely. Why aren`t you on the list of Australians being touted as Lifesavers… You deserve some MORE recognition than just a little… Good on Ya…

  2. What a great story I happen to know the person whom doesn’t want to be named. but your’e great I also support and bring back wheelchairs, crouches walking sticks etc. wish more people did this when they visit, bring hand luggage and use the rest for charity like only a hand full of us do!

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