"Walk a mile in my shoes"
Carla and Sarah are two first year students at Queen’s University Belfast, both living at Derryvolgie Halls (part of the Presbyterian Chaplaincy) and enjoying university life. Carla has Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, a muscular condition that causes easy dislocation of her major joints. This and other minor physiological problems mean that Carla uses a wheelchair most of the time.
The two girls struck a close friendship out of mutual respect and a common Christian faith. As Sarah spent time with Carla she saw the difficulties Carla had to overcome just to achieve the ordinary, and felt humbled by her friend’s resilience, optimism and determination. Even so, Sarah thought she had a good insight into difficulties faced by wheelchair users until she experienced them herself.
Carla had been taken to hospital and upon leaving found that both her wheelchairs (electric and manual) were still at the Student Union. Both girls agreed to take one chair each back to their halls of residence. Carla set off in the electric, while Sarah pushed the manual chair, but they decided it would be a challenge for Sarah to try out life as a wheelchair user! She quickly discovered that life using the chair was very different from life pushing a chair; high kerbs were difficult to overcome without assistance, pavement camber pulled her towards traffic and the ubiquitous cars parked on pavements were regular obstacles. Sarah saw Carla’s life in a new light.
As they chatted about this, they decided they would extend that challenge and see if Sarah could spend 24 hours as a wheelchair user without using her legs at all, to raise some sponsorship for Wheels for the World. Sarah completed her 24 hour challenge and between them the girls raised over £900!
Through the Roof’s work raises awareness of barriers to access, and the ways in which they can be removed, both physically and through understanding. God has taught the girls so much from this experience and they both have confidence in the future knowing that He is in control regardless of whether they are standing or sitting.