Disabled Equipment Sent Overseas (DESO) is one of those charities that, as the expression goes, ‘does what it says on the tin’…and it was our great pleasure to hear a talk about its work from Founder, Mavis Hyde.
Mavis has had an unusual life, and before her presentation Rotarian Bob Anderson touched on this. Mavis was an orphan. She married a Ghanaian – and subsequently taught for several years at a school in Ghana. Following the breakdown of her marriage she returned to the UK, initially to Lancashire and more recently to Canterbury, after she met and married her second husband. Nevertheless, her close ties to Ghana remain. To date she estimates that she’s spent over 60 years there in total.
DESO is a Canterbury-based charity that provides special equipment, support, education, and training to children and adults with disabilities and to the physically challenged in Ghana, its aim being to help them meet their full potential. The ultimate hope is to find employment for all disabled or physically challenged people.
DESO was founded by Mavis just over 12 years ago, after Mavis saw the extreme difficulties faced by disabled people in Africa. She recounts “The quality of life for people with disabilities in Africa was not good,” adding, with a sense of sadness that “this has not changed in 60 years.”
Mavis and her DESO colleagues currently collect and distribute unwanted items from the UK and send these out in large containers to Africa. As Mavis emphasized, “DESO is mainly about recycling”, making use of items that would otherwise be unused or thrown away. This includes medical aids such as wheelchairs, walking sticks, prosthetics and crutches. Often these are pieces of NHS equipment that cannot be returned or are damaged.
DESO now also collects hearing aids, glasses, bicycles and education equipment (such as school books, school packs, braille books, laptops and computers that help support DESO’s successful education programme). The volunteers also welcome items that can help disabled people make their own living, such as sewing machines, tools, and hairdressing equipment. Mavis is grateful for all donations, but some make a lasting impression. For example, the mother of a woman with cerebral palsy donated a wheelchair worth thousands of pounds to the charity.
The special items are all collected together in a warehouse in Canterbury Road, Ashford, before being packed into containers that are sent off to Africa with a blessing – a recent one being sent off by an audience that included our previous Lord Mayor (and member of our Club), Rosemary Doyle.
It is not just the disabled that benefit from DESO’s support. They also support albinos in Africa, a group of individuals who are often not accepted in society. DESO promotes them in a special way and provides them with equipment to help them become self-sufficient.
In recent years DESO has organised annual ‘Walks of Hope' in which people with disabilities – including blind individuals – participate in a walk over 7 miles long along the seafront. This walk, in which more than 1000 people take part each year, helps increase awareness of the challenges faced by disabled people and catches the eye of politicians and other influential individuals; in fact a local chief joined one walk. (See youtube link below for videos).
DESO has also bought two acres of land in Ghana which Mavis says ‘belongs to the people’; the plan is to build a training centre for the disabled. There is already a sports room, with table tennis and a pool table; not only can the disabled have fun there, but they can also gains skills such as learning how to use computers. But there are still many hurdles ahead. Although they now have electricity there is no running water - as yet, the drilling of boreholes has been unsuccessful. Instead they they are reliant on the delivery of water by donors.
DESO also organizes an 8 league ‘amputee’ football team. Many of the disabled or physically challenged sportsmen would be unable to participate in the game were it not for donated crutches. (Unfortunately, crutches are not manufactured in Ghana).
Many organizations, groups and individuals help support DESO in its work – for instance, some wheelchairs come from France, G4 supplies hearing aid batteries and security, someone in Ghana is providing IT support for free, an Indian organization delivered beds to Narita hospital, which now looks after little children who have no arms or legs for free; Hyundai provides the water while others donate rice. There are also links with Morecambe University. In turn, DESO is also able to support other local charities, such as those helping one-parent families.
Mavis is now in her 80s, and the impact of her tireless work has meant that she has made several appearances on TV, radio and in print media; DESO has also, unsurprisingly, won awards for its work.
Reflecting on her activities, Mavis recalls how people used to say ‘being born disabled is a curse on the family’. She and her team are helping to overturn this with their work. It should be no surprise then that when Mavis is asked how much one of DESO’s containers is worth, she responds, without hesitation “£1m”. To her it contains items that will help people make a living, re-gain their self-respect and, in summary, will truly changes lives,.
For more about DESO, visit their web site. Mavis and the team are always keen to hear about donations and volunteers.
For their youtube page, click here.