After more than two years of extensive e orts, Whirlwind has managed to pull together the key partners for a major wheelchair project in Morocco. The project would support a social enterprise, called Peace Wheels that includes local wheelchair manufacture and assembly of imported RoughRiders® in conjunction with efforts to improve access to wheelchairs throughout the country.
The project is the brainchild of Salam Hassan, an Iraqi wheelchair rider and former Whirlwind wheelchair engineer. Salam is a US citizen. His wife Sara Tanzakkine is Moroccan and is a Whirlwind employee.
In September 2017, the project planning team visited Morocco for two weeks to meet with potential partners. We secured collaboration with White Dove, a disabled-run NGO in the northern city of Tetouan, on developing new wheelchair services in Morocco. Whirlwind requires that a local disability organization play a leading role in projects that we support. White Dove currently receives capacity building support from USAID and European Union projects. We contributed a Peace Wheels sports wheelchair and a RoughRider for a wheelchair technology exhibition sponsored by White Dove in Tetouan on Dec. 15, 2017.
The Rotary Club of Casablanca has agreed to purchase more than 300 wheelchairs annually and has expressed interest in collaborating with an American Rotary Club on a joint humanitarian project to meet the wheelchair needs of Moroccans with disabilities. Our partners at the Coalition for Independent Living in Tbilisi, Georgia, whose RoughRider factory is a model for the Moroccan project, will provide assembly line training and quality control to greatly increase the number of wheelchairs produced.
The Entraide Nationale du Maroc is the government agency responsible for purchasing wheelchairs for distribution to persons with disabilities in Morocco and they agreed to purchase 9,000 wheelchairs in 2017. Whirlwind statement with Faoud el Madani, General Director of L’Entraide Nationale, regarding the government’s commercial tender for purchasing wheelchairs and about their willingness to improve the functioning characteristics of the wheelchair specifications for their commercial tenders.
After our meeting, the Entraide Nationale agreed to collaborate on a future assessment survey that will get feedback from users on di erent types and models of wheelchairs. Currently, the government purchases only basic wheelchairs imported from China. One of the Morocco project’s goals will be to educate the government about the need for purchasing wheelchairs, which are appropriate for the rough environment in Morocco and to change the government’s current wheelchair provision policy. White Dove would implement the wheelchair assessment survey and the adoption of World Health Organization guidelines for wheelchair provision services.
USAID/Morocco’s new Democracy and Governance O cer, Jennifer Nikolae , met with our team in September at the US embassy in Rabat and expressed a willingness to administer any project that USAID- Washington would be willing to fund. Agreement of the in-country USAID o ce is a precondition for any USAID support for a disability project.
Whirlwind Wheelchair International wants to express its commitment to supporting and collaborating with
Salam Hassan and Peace Wheels in Marrakesh. Whirlwind has followed Salam’s development in Morocco of a lightweight sports wheelchair and a newly invented hub-less wheelchair, as he begins to develop appropriate technology wheelchairs in Marrakesh, which can be manufactured at a low price from locally available materials with locally trained workers who have disabilities. In addition, we have agreed that Peace Wheels can also be the official distributor of RoughRider wheelchairs in Morocco and North Africa.