SASKATOON — The gift of a wheelchair changes lives, says Bishop Bryan Bayda, CSsR, of the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of Saskatoon. Bayda, who serves as state chaplain for the Knights of Columbus in Saskatchewan, is accompanying a delegation to Ukraine this month to deliver 280 wheelchairs.
The purchase and shipping of wheelchairs to areas of need around the world is an ongoing Knights of Columbus project, undertaken in conjunction with the Canadian Wheelchair Foundation.
“Often a dozen or more people are required to assist with day-to-day mobility tasks for a person who has lost a certain amount of independence owing to some tragedy,” said Bayda. “The gift of a wheelchair changes lives. It changes not only the lifestyle of the victim of an accident but having restored some measure of independent mobility to that person, those who assist them also have their lifestyles improved.”
From May 9-17, the Saskatchewan delegation will deliver the much-needed wheelchairs and other equipment to locations in Lviv, Kiev and Dnipropetrovs’k and surrounding areas.
“We have partnered with Caritas Ukraine to receive the shipment, distribute the chairs to the various locations and then arrange for the presentation of some of the chairs by those in our group,” said Bayda.
In addition to Bayda, those travelling to Ukraine at their own expense include Saskatchewan state deputy elect Brian Schatz and his wife Lois; the director of the wheelchair program for the Knights of Columbus in Saskatchewan, Eugene Achtemichuk and his wife Brenda; John and Marie Lebersback; and Ken and Betty-Ann Piecowye. Christiana Flessner, representing the Canadian Wheelchair Foundation, is also on the trip, “as she continues to work tirelessly to improve the lives of thousands around the world with the help of the Knights of Columbus,” said Bayda.
The group left Canada May 9, arriving first in Lviv, where they distributed wheelchairs before flying to Kiev. They celebrated Divine Liturgy at the Sobor of the Resurrection of Christ Cathedral in Kiev May 15, in addition to distributing wheelchairs there, and then travelled to Dnipropetrovs’k May 16-17.
“All 280 wheelchairs delivered to Ukraine were purchased by funds received from donations made by Saskatchewan Knights and/or individuals living here,” said Eugene Achtemichuk. Each wheelchair costs about $190. With exchange rates, the cost for this particular shipment totaled some $58,800.
“To a person in need, a wheelchair can deliver dignity and hope for a better future,” said Achtemichuk. “We are transforming lives through mobility.”