Wheels to Heal
1972. Khalid Raza
Khalid Raza, from Glasgow, created the charity, 'Wheels to Heal', a collaborative of volunteers that has rescued over 24,000 wheelchairs and disability aids destined for landfill in Scotland and across the UK, and upcycled these for disabled people overseas who face barriers to mobility.
Khalid formed the concept of the charity after the chance discovery of 150 wheelchairs destined for scrap in Glasgow and realising that these could easily be recycled and prove transformative for disabled people without access to mobility equipment due to impoverished situations, social stigma or conflict. Overwhelmed by requests from charities after advertising the restored chairs online, Khalid’s charity has sent items to countries including Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Gambia, Ghana, Iraq, Lebanon, Pakistan, Palestine, Malawi, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Syria, Uganda, and Yemen. The charity, which remains entirely voluntary-led, offers a collection service covering all of mainland Scotland and the UK as well as drop off points in key hubs. It also runs an uplift service allowing over 500 care homes across the UK to donate unused but good-quality mobility aids.
Khalid was presented with his award by the Prime Minister Rishi Sunak at a Downing Street reception marking Burns Night and showcasing Scottish Culture (pictured below: photo credit Simon Dawson/No10 Downing Street).
In a personal letter to Khalid, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said:
“As we mark Burns Night and celebrate everything that is special about Scottish culture, I am delighted to be able to recognise the ingenious work you are doing with Wheels to Heal.
“I was inspired to learn how your chance discovery of 150 wheelchairs going to landfill has led to a volunteering network that is giving literally thousands of people across the world access to wheelchairs and mobility aids.
“By working in partnership with care homes and volunteers all across Scotland, you have created an innovative way of preventing perfectly good equipment going to waste while transforming the lives of disabled people on a global scale.”
Scottish Secretary Alister Jack said:
“Many congratulations to Khalid for tonight’s award. This is a selfless and very imaginative project, with positive humanitarian and environmental impacts that will endure for many years and extend far beyond our shores. It’s a fantastic example of the power of grassroots volunteering and one that should serve as a positive example to us all.”
“The award is testimony that the small, conscientious and selfless actions of a collective grassroots group of volunteering individuals can make a big impact on a global level. At home here in the UK, it is a shout against the waste culture that has been allowed to develop, an alternative to landfill, and instead creating an emotional legacy for thousands of equipment donors. Overseas, it is a huge cry of relief for those fortunate to be given the gift of mobility and some dignity, as well as a little voice for the millions of disabled people who continue to be invisible and face a lifetime of lockdown and barriers to accessing their community, education, employment and fulfilling their dreams. Things we all take for granted.
“As a charity operating on a shoestring budget, none of this would have been possible without the support of my parents and children, extended family, and friends, the goodwill given by UK businesses and community representatives, the donations received from people from all communities and walks of life, and our in-country charity partners.
“The concept of ‘Wheels to Heal’ was formed unintentionally after the chance discovery of 150 wheelchairs destined for scrap in Glasgow, Scotland. The inability and decision to not look away had a ripple effect and eventually we had the vision to expand the service of up-cycling aids throughout the United Kingdom. We hope this recognition of the environmental and humanitarian benefits of ‘Wheels to Heal’ will inspire more people to do the right thing when faced with similar choices.”
Pictured below: left hand image: Khalid (front left) and volunteers with ‘Wheels to Heal’ delivering mobility aids; right hand images: some of the beneficiaries of new wheelchairs