CBN Helping Senegal Disabled Gain Independence

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DAKAR, Senegal -- A U.S. Navy high-speed ship recently became a link to independence for hundreds of handicapped people in the west African country of Senegal. 

The HSV2 Swift moves faster than nearly any other ship in the U.S. Navy. The unique double-hulled ship often serves as a good will ambassador, delivering humanitarian cargo under the Navy's Operation Handclasp.

When the swift arrived in Dakar, the Navy unloaded several crates, each containing nearly 400 donated wheelchairs.

"Kind of like a bicycle affair. And in addition to being unique in that respect, it's a three-wheel chair, and it has a compartment underneath the seat where people can put stuff," explained Jon Cassel, CBN director for West Africa.

Cassel worked with a Christian hospital to deliver the chairs to various parts of the majority Muslim country.

"Even being in this 95 percent Muslim country in which we work in Senegal, we've told people that it is Christian donors that are making and giving these chairs in order to demonstrate the love and compassion of Jesus Christ," he said.

The Senegalese government, including President Abdoulaye Wade, stepped in to make sure the chairs actually reached the people who needed them.

"I saw the regional directors. I saw the U.S. Navy getting  involved, and I saw the government of Senegal getting involved to make sure they delivered," said Alassane Sene, a member of the Senegal cabinet.

"For example, 400 wheelchairs for the handicapped. And this was outstanding," Sene said. "And again, this was a major breakthrough and I thank CBN for their leadership on it."

The chairs were manufactured by volunteers in the U.S through a ministry known as Personal Energy Transportation, or PET. 

"These men would get together like on a Saturday, or something like that, in somebody's shop," Cassel explained. "And they would build these carts out of wood, and they'd get wheelbarrow tires and bicycle parts, and put these together, and it became quite popular."

PET wheelchairs have literally lifted the handicapped off the ground in more than 80 countries -- giving them personal independence, from one day to the next.

"When your regional director was in Foujoun, he saw one handicapped man. He used to buy and sell goods, but he asked people to do it for him," Sene told CBN News.

"When he got the wheelchair, he went to the market, bought his goods, and came back and said, 'Now, I am independent,'  he said.

"And at the one distribution we did, the imam, the head of the mosque there in the town, got up and offered a prayer, praising God for CBN's presence, there, and giving these chairs," Cassel said.

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