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Valentine's Day Gift of 99 Wheelchairs

On February 14th 2006, Rotary Club of Koh Samui handed over 99 wheelchairs to Nathon and Suratthani Hospitals.

The delightful handover ceremony was the culmination of many months of hard work on the part of Rotary President, Paul Watson. Paul had been offered the wheelchairs by a National Health Service Trust in England, following the devastating tsunami of December 26th 2004. The wheelchairs had been declared obsolete by the European Commission, though they were fully functional, and the donors thought that Thailand could benefit from this gift, which included 29 motorised chairs. Paul happily accepted the gift, and the Rocks eagerly awaited their arrival. The container with its precious cargo docked in April 2005, and was taken to a Customs and Excise Warehouse in Bangkok. Paul travelled to Bangkok with documents showing that he had offered the consignment to local hospitals, and that they were a gift to the Thai people. Customs and Excise took a different view, and imposed a duty on them. The argument waged for many months, and even involved the Health Minister, but Customs were adament; unless the Duty was paid, the wheelchairs would not be released.



The situation was becoming desperate, and Customs were threatening to open the container and sell the contents, when the District Governor of Rotary District 3330 made his annual visit to the club in October 2005. He met with the Board of the Rotary Club and then witnessed a Club Meeting, chaired by President Paul. He heard the update on the wheelchairs and of the current impasse. When he addressed the club, he spoke of his disquiet at the situation, and simply said 'leave it with me'. He was true to his word, and very soon Customs and Excise were more amenable to reason. With yet another set of documents produced, Paul headed to Bangkok once more, and the wheelchairs were finally released. They travelled to Samui by truck and ferry, arriving in January 2006. Rotary Club members all gathered at their storage and helped to clean up the now dusty wheelcairs, and refurbish the motor units of the special motorised ones.

The long awaited day finally dawned, February 14th 2006, and the club handed over it's Valentine's gift with love to Nathon and Suratthani Hospitals. Handicapped people from Samui were invited and given one of the motorised chairs which would give them a freedom of movement hitherto unknown. Generous sponsors 'adopted' most of the chairs, enabling Rotary Club of Koh Samui to raise money for its many worthwhile projects.