My AFK and mobility during Covid-19
For the past 27 years, my AFK has been committed to providing mobility equipment not available on the NHS for disabled young people up to the age of 25. In 2019, thanks to the generous support of our funders, corporate partners and supporters, we have changed 143 lives through our mobility equipment scheme, funding or part-funding 78 new pieces of equipment and carrying out vital maintenance work on a further 65 powerchairs we’d previously funded.
Covid-19 has brought new challenges not only in mobility device distribution, but this pandemic also endangers young people like Lauren (above) due to a severe reduction in access to information, social services, health care, education and social development.
Adapting to the ‘new normal’
Suddenly, and for the first time in the majority of people’s lifetimes, communities are coming to terms with enforced self-isolation and feelings of exclusion. At my AFK, we have been working to help individuals who often strive to keep these feelings at bay in daily life, regardless of a pandemic.
This includes ways of keeping our young people engaged, fit and healthy at home. Whether it’s through online cooking, coding or yoga classes, or the chance to enter our very first virtual talent show. Although we have had a major upheaval in facilitating service delivery, our dedicated staff are determined to stay connected with our beneficiaries, while working hard to get mobility equipment to who would otherwise struggle to make the most of their limited time outdoors.
One of our recent beneficiaries is Lauren, an 8-year-old from Stourbridge. Lauren has arthrogryposis and scoliosis, which affects her joints and causes limited mobility. She is unable to walk or sit independently and requires support for all of her care needs. Before this pandemic took hold, Lauren’s family applied to AFK for a light-weight manual wheelchair as she recently outgrew her NHS specialist buggy. They are delighted she has the opportunity to learn to self-propel in a light-weight chair, giving her a chance to gain strength and explore her environment, building independence as she gets older in order to live an independent and fulfilling life.
My AFK is a small charity without the reserves or resources of larger organisations to fall back on during such a crisis. We simply could not function without all of the support from our incredible partners, as well as our dedicated staff, fundraisers and volunteer cohort. With major fundraising events like the London Marathon being postponed indefinitely, we have had to think on our feet and find new ways of finding income to keep our mobility scheme up and running.
Amid this pandemic, as governments and local communities look to reshape in order to come out of this crisis stronger, we must not leave behind or overlook the specific needs of people with disabilities. We hope as we emerge from lockdown we will be able to reflect on a period of positive transition and change, continuing to focus on the ability, not the disability, of our young people.
Written by Jessie McCullough – Jessie is the new Marketing and Communications officer for my AFK.