|The Africa-Regina link|
by Joana Cook
Terri Sleeva may be a quadriplegic, but this handicap hasn't stopped her from being actively involved in Team Rwanda. She was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1984 and has used a wheelchair since 1998. "The freedom after I sat down [in my wheelchair] was unbelievable," Sleeva said. "I will never forget it." It led her to joining Team Rwanda, an organization that pur- chases and donates wheelchairs to people in Rwanda. In fact, it has made her even more determined to help others in need of wheelchairs. She teamed up with Craig Lenz, the local representative of the Wheelchair Foundation, after meeting the deputy mayor of Kigali. "[The deputy mayor] asked me to contact the prime minister to get wheelchairs into Rwanda," Sleeva said. Without the Canadian prime min- ister, but with the help of the Rotary Club in Fresno, Calif., Team Rwanda sent 1,400 wheelchairs. Regina resi- dents were responsible for 560 of those chairs. In Rwanda, mobility can mean life or death for those who don't have family to take care of them. The genocide in 1994 left a large number of Rwandans with injuries that limit their mobility. Machete wounds or landmine injuries forced them to rely on their families for care. The burden of transporting grown adults is a heavy task, even for the most loving families. This is why Sleeva believes it is so important for those who are more for- tunate to help out. Although she has been unable to travel to Rwanda her- self, when she heard some of the sto- ries of lives improved, she cried. "Craig said, there was a woman who climbed down from the moun- tains for two days on her stomach to get a wheelchair," she said. Helping disabled people achieve mobility is not the only goal for Team Rwanda. They have also joined with African Link, a Regina based NGO. that is building a centre for reconcilia- tion and healing in Rwanda. The founder, Eddie Mwuvaneza, lost many members of his family dur- ing the genocide and has been work- ing hard to help heal his country. Mwuvaneza, who is fundraising in Regina, was so overwhelmed with the response from the city's residents he will name the centre Regina Village. The goal now for Team Rwanda and African Link is to raise the rest of the funds necessary to build the Regina Village. They also hope to pro- mote more awareness about Rwanda's recovery from genocide. Their next fundraising event is a bake sale on March 31 at the Eastview Community Centre and on April 13, Team Rwanda will host an African night with Pat Fiacco as the speaker. For more information contact Sleeva at 545-7378 or Mwuvaneza at 565-7679.