South African citizen Graig Sieben, who started walking on foot and
hitchhiking from Pretoria in South Africa 77 days ago, and plans to
reach Egypt’s Capital City, Cairo, by April 26 2012 in a campaign
aimed to raise awareness about the plight of people with disabilities
in Africa, arrived in Malawi on Monday.
Sieben, who has dubbed his sojourn the ‘Walk4Wheels’ campaign, plans
to pass through 15 countries within 222 days- covering a total
distance of 16,000 kilometres.
After arriving in Lilongwe on Monday, the philanthropist walked and
hitch-hiked to Blantyre, where he arrived on Wednesday. He was on his
way to Mulanje as we went to press on Friday, and plans to return to
Blantyre and pass through the Lakeshore road on his way to Egypt
Speaking in an interview on Thursday, when he visited Malawi against
Physical Disabilities (Map) premises in Blantyre, where he donated a
wheelchair worth 7,000 Rand (about K140, 000) using the money he has
fundraised, Sieben said he was saddened with the challenges faced by
people with physical challenges in Malawi.
“Although I would say I am happy that I am in Blantyre on the 75th day
of my journey, I am sad to note that physically challenged people face
a lot of problems, most of which hinge on resource constraints. The
situation in Malawi, and most African countries I have passed through,
is not very different from that of South Africa,” said Sieben.
Sieben, who has already been to South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe and
Zambia and wants to raise enough money to purchase 222 wheelchairs,
said he decided to embark on his campaign after being touched by the
plight of a 17 year-old South African girl called Chaeli some five
“Chaeli, who has just won an international peace prize, developed a
health condition that made her lose her ability to walk. However, she
and her relatives did not have money for a wheelchair, and this forced
her to launch a public appeal for a wheelchair,’ said Sieben.
Chaeli soon found the wheelchair but donations kept coming in, said
Sieben, a development that prompted Chaeli to launch the Chaeli
Campaign- a Cape Town-based Non Governmental Organisation (NGO) that
focuses on mobilizing the minds and bodies of children with
This, according to Sieben, makes the Chaeli Campaign the only NGO in
the world to be duly registered by children between six and 12 years
old. The NGO now runs other initiatives such as the Therapy programme,
Inclusive Education programme, Pay-it-Forward Ambassadors programme,
and Chaeli Sports and Recreation Club.
Speaking after the wheelchair presentation ceremony, Map
Rehabilitation Services Manager, Alex Dzinkambani, said it was
disheartening that people with physical disabilities in Malawi have to
rely on foreign nationals for help, “when we, as Malawians, can do
equally well by donating such things as wheelchairs and crutches”.
Dzinkambani said Map currently has 2000 people who need wheelchairs
“The demand for wheelchairs, tricycles, calipers, baby-walkers,
walking frames and crutches is huge. This is so because we help about
10,000 people every year,” said Dzinkambani.
He added that some wheelchairs also needed replacement, since a
wheelchair’s lifespan is 10 years.
Map started giving out wheelchairs in 1970, and helps rehabilitate
people with physical challenges at its four centres in Blantyre,
Lilongwe, Rumphi, and Zomba. It needs K300 million annually to
carry out its activities, but has received on K100 million to run its
operations this year.