PhysioNet, a UK-registered charity, collects redundant paediatric physiotherapy equipment, mobility aids, wheelchairs and other ‘care in the community’ items from around the UK. The equipment is refurbished by volunteers and through their sister charity, HM Prison Service. PhysioNet are the only organisation doing this work and as well as helping the disabled overseas, they are also saving these items from going to scrap or to the landfill.
The collected items are sorted, and once refurbished, are packed in industrial film and stored prior to being shipped, usually in 40ft containers to their overseas ‘customers.’ In the last 14 months shipping containers or the equivalent have rolled out of North Yorkshire destined for Bulgaria, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Fiji, Kenya, South Africa and Samoa. In nearly all cases the recipients could not afford the equipment which is well beyond the budget of all but a fraction of the disabled.
PyhsioNet was approached by the Bhopal Medical Appeal which supports the Chingari Trust Rehabilitation Centre in Bhopal. The Bhopal gas disaster in 1984 killed 25,000 people and some 120,000 more people still suffer from the continuing effects of the leak. Another charity, the Bilga Hospital Charitable Trust which supports a hospital in the Punjab was also looking to send items to northern India so it was decided that they should share the contents of a single 40ft shipping container.
PhysioNet pride themselves in always filling a contained to capacity and in this instance 754 items were shipped including 160 pieces of paediatric physiotherpay equipment, 270 pairs of crutches and walking sticks, 60 other mobility items, 130 wheelchairs and boxes of spares and 60 items of medical; hardware etc. For customs purposes PhysioNet provides an invoice valuing everything at about 10% of the new cost (a conservative estimate of this consignment if new, would be £125,000).
Over the past few months, volunteers from PhysioNet have been collecting items specifically requested by the Chingari Trust and Rehabilitation Center–items that are critical for the growth and development of disabled Bhopali children affected by the gas disaster and water contamination crisis.
The container travelled by road from North Yorkshire to Leeds, then by train to Tilbury where it was loaded onto the container ship Vietnam Express which set sail on the 20th March 2013. On arrival at Mumbai, the consignment will again travel by road, this time to the Contained Depot in Ludhiana (Punjab), where it will clear Indian customs. The Bhopal Medical Appeal are then responsible for opening the container and transporting the items destined for Chingari to Bhopal.
Thanks to Melanie Hadida and Peter Thompson for all of their hard work with the coordination of the consignment. Thank you also to Dr Robert Arnott who allowed the BMA to share his shipping consignment to India.