BULLHEAD CITY — For a disabled person living day-to-day, a new wheelchair or a set of crutches can be life-changing.
For Mohave High School students Bridget Mac Donald and Dylan Boyd, a summer trip to Kenya has been likewise life-changing.
The pair are with the MHS Interact Club, and participated in an effort by Crutches 4 Africa to collect and distribute mobility devices for people in developing countries. Crutches 4 Africa is a Rotary International project.
The MHS Interact Club collected crutches, walkers and other items during the school year. Between the local chapter and a Phoenix-based chapter, enough devices were assembled to fill a 40-foot shipping container.
Boyd and Mac Donald left town June 16 and returned Saturday. The pair, along with fellow Arizona Interactors Loralli Johnson and Hazel McGuffin and two advisers, flew from Phoenix through Chicago and Frankfurt, Germany, on their way to Nairobi, Kenya’s capital and largest city.
The eye-openers began in earnest on the drive from Nairobi to Gilgil, one of four towns the group visited.
“It was a rural area,” Mac Donald said. “With goats and zebras at the side of the road.
“It was common to see zebras walking on the main road.”
The pair also got to see the end users of the devices they collected — and the impact the donations had on people’s lives.
“We went to a home one day to bring a wheelchair to a lady who had flip-flops on her hands and was dragging her legs behind her,” Boyd said. “She pulled herself into the wheelchair and started rolling away; she was just super excited.”
Mac Donald said when a social worker came back a week later to check up on the patient, who was paralyzed by polio, “she was still zooming around.”
“It’s just really amazing to see that and actually be part of it,” Boyd said. “We changed her life forever.”
The group sometimes went to hospitals and dropped off an assortment of devices, and in some cases was contacted by local Rotarians who knew of specific needs that patients had.
In areas where people with disabilities are looked down upon, a wheelchair can be a lifeline. Both patients and doctors were consistently grateful for the items the group brought, Boyd and Mac Donald said.
The two noted the differences between their lives in the Tri-state and those of the people they met in Kenya.
Mac Donald said that Americans take a lot of things for granted that are hard for many rural Kenyans to even imagine.
“It’s amazing that we have clean water,” Boyd said, “when they have to walk miles just to get water we would not consider clean.”
Most of their expenses for the trip were sponsored by Interact and Rotary clubs; the pair earned sponsorships by giving presentations about the mission and service project.
They paid from their own pockets for personal expenses, including a safari.
Mac Donald, Mohave’s 2017-2018 Interact Club president, and Boyd, the incoming vice president, both said the opportunity to help others, within the community or across the world, is one of their favorite aspects of being in the club.
Mac Donald said she was following in the footsteps of her older sister, Raquel, who was club president her freshman year.
Boyd was among the group who started the Interact Club at Fox Creek Junior High School, and has stuck with it ever since.
Each is graduating next spring. Boyd said he will definitely go to college, but hasn’t yet picked a school or major.
Mac Donald said she plans to attend college and major in criminology, with the intention of someday joining the FBI.
The pair had thanks for advisers Elizabeth Mahoney and Caleb Lowe and for Art Harrington, a local man who helped organize the trip and served as a mentor to both.
Boyd pointed out that while their trip has ended, the mission has not. Crutches 4 Africa sends about eight shipments a year to Kenya and other African countries. Anyone interested in making a donation may drop the items off at MHS or contact Harrington at email@example.com.
Mac Donald said the trip has given her memories she’ll never forget.
What will she most remember?
“The amount of impact Rotary has internationally,” she said, “and what a 16- and 17-year-old can do to change the world.”