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Eradicate and rehabilitate:

Fighting polio and its effects in Nigeria

This past July, it was announced that there had been no new cases of polio in Nigeria since July 24, 2014. While this one-year anniversary is certainly a milestone, it takes three years without a reported case before a country is declared free of the disease.

Ayuba Gufwan and Dr. Ronald Rice, co-founders of the Beautiful Gate Handicapped People Center, applaud the efforts of organizations that supported the Global Polio Eradication Initiative. 

But while these programs serve to fight the disease, Gufwan and Rice saw an aspect of polio that was not being addressed – support for its survivors. In Nigeria, there is little aid for the survivors of the illness. Unable to travel far on their hands, crippled polio victims are often left destitute and need to beg for survival.

Gufwan has dedicated his life to the fight against polio and also to helping those left crippled, limbs deformed by the disease. He is a polio survivor and knows the struggles first-hand. His father stopped sending him to school after Grade 3, believing any further education would be a waste of money. He was destined to a life dependent on others. When Gufwan was 19 years old, however, his uncle built him a wheelchair. Gufwan returned to school and became a teacher and later obtained his law degree.

When he met Rice, a retired Presbyterian minister in 1999, the Beautiful Gate ministry was started, named after Acts 3 when Peter healed the lame beggar at the Beautiful Gate temple entrance. Gufwan and Rice want to help polio survivors become independent through mobility.

Gufwan’s dream
The Beautiful Gate Handicapped People Center began with a small workshop in Jos, Nigeria, where they made hand-propelled, tricycle-styled wheelchairs. In North America, Rice registered the charitable organization “Wheelchairs for Nigeria” to raise financial support for Beautiful Gate. In 2014, they purchased land in Jos and built a larger workshop to increase wheelchair production and expand on other mobility products such as prosthetic limbs, crutches and canes.

“Beautiful Gate tries to alleviate the suffering of those affected by polio and other misfortunes,” explains Kathy VanderKloet, a missionary who works in the Christian Reformed Church business office in Nigeria, handling the finances and logistics for CRCM and World Renew in Nigeria.

Beautiful Gate, relying entirely on gifts from donors like World Renew and Rotary International and through Rice’s efforts with Wheelchairs for Nigeria, is the largest mobility aid supplier for polio survivors and has provided over ten thousand wheelchairs. The wheelchairs are free, given with the hope that the recipient will get an education and not beg. Through organizations like Rotary International, further support is available for survivors to cover school fees.

Gufwan hopes that the world will be free of polio during his lifetime. When invited to the World Health organization to address the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, he told leaders: “My dream is one day to stop making wheelchairs.”

The message of compassion for the disabled that Beautiful Gate sends to its fellow citizens is being noticed. A wheelchair presentation in September 2015 was attended by many high-ranking government officials. As well, Beautiful Gate recently received their first substantial donation from a wealthy Nigerian. But the greatest message this organization sends is that of Christ’s love and peace.

VanderKloet explains that Beautiful Gate is openly Christian, handing out Bibles with the wheelchairs and helping Christians and Muslims alike. “In doing so,” she says, “it has gained a tremendous amount of goodwill in Muslim communities and has shown the hands of Christ reaching out in compassion to the suffering and neglected ones, not only in Christian communities but in other faith communities too.”

Author

  • Krista Dam-VandeKuyt lives in Jerseyville, Ont. with husband Rob and their children Ethan, Eliya and Zoë. They are members at Ancaster Christian Reformed Church.

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