Abigail Klein Leichman
February 22, 2018, Updated December 6, 2018

Fifty colorful, lightweight child-sized wheelchairs from Israeli nonprofit organization Wheelchairs of Hope are being distributed to needy disabled five- to nine-year-olds in South Africa through the South African chapter of WIZO (Women’s International Zionist Organization) and the Israeli Embassy in South Africa.

The inexpensive, low-maintenance wheelchairs were conceptualized by Israeli couple Pablo Kaplan and Chava Rotshtein as a humanitarian mission to help children with disabilities in developing countries. The chairs were developed with the aid of professionals at ALYN Hospital in Jerusalem, a pediatric and adolescent rehabilitation center.

Bearing stickers with the message “To the children of South Africa with love from Israel,” the wheelchairs are being donated mainly through the Maitland Cottage Children’s Orthopedic Hospital in Cape Town, Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital in Johannesburg, The Give a Child a Family organization in Margate and Umduduzi Hospice Care for Children in Durban.

In South Africa, an estimated 600,000 disabled children cannot go to school because their parents cannot afford a wheelchair.

“The idea is not the chair itself, but the mobility and independence it gives to children who would otherwise not have any access to school or community life,” Kaplan said.

Wheelchairs of Hope previously have been donated to needy children in Vietnam, Peru and Tajikistan, as well as mobility-challenged children under the age of nine in Israel and PA territories, some of them earmarked for Syrian refugee children.

This year, Wheelchairs of Hope also will be donated to children in Argentina.

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