Borders charity is a good idea on paper and in reality

Charity founder...Archie Hinchcliffe is delighted that Cerebral Palsy Africa has received a two-year funding boost.
Charity founder...Archie Hinchcliffe is delighted that Cerebral Palsy Africa has received a two-year funding boost.

A £50,000 boost has been given to a small charity based in the Borders that helps children in Africa.

Cerebral Palsy Africa, whose co-founder Archie Hinchcliffe lives in Duns, has been awarded the bumper cash injection from the Department for International Development’s small charities fund.

And Archie (79), who is a retired paediatric physiotherapist, couldn’t be more delighted.

For the money will help Cerebral Palsy Africa fund a two year project in Ghana and, ultimately, scores of children in the country.

Archie said: “The project is to train 19 special needs teachers from schools around Ghana and two lecturers from the Winneba University of Education.

“The aim is to help children with cerebral palsy to be able to participate in schools at whatever level is possible for them.

Without the adapted chair, this little boy would not be able to use his hands so well. He needs good support for his body so that he can learn both what it feels like to sit and play.

Without the adapted chair, this little boy would not be able to use his hands so well. He needs good support for his body so that he can learn both what it feels like to sit and play.

“Up until now very few children with cerebral palsy were accepted in Ghanaian schools.

“Our partner organisation has been working in close collaboration with the Ministry of Education special needs department and the university, offering training to teachers of children with learning difficultes.

“We are confident that together we can bring about a sustainable beginning to the process of building a cadre of specialist teachers with training into the future provided by a new cerebral palsy module at Winneba University.

“This will be supported by two specialist Ghanaian physiotherapists who have been trained by CPA over a number of years.

“We are a small charity so we were delighted to meet the criteria for the grant and to discover that we had been successful in our application for funds.

“We’d like to thank the DfID team who have supported us through the grant application process.

“We’re grateful for the far sightedness of the department in supporting a programme that targets children with disabilities.

“It has been true to its sustainable development goals in leaving no-one behind.”

Cerebral Palsy Africa has also been regularly funded by the Scottish Government and is in the final year of a three year project in Malawi.

The charity was founded by Archie and her fellow director Jean Westmacott in 2005.

It provides unique cardboard wheelchair inserts, so that children can use an adult wheelchair and be comfortable and well supported in it, and walking frames for children with cerebral palsy in Africa.

Archie’s husband Peter was a diplomat before he retired to work as a lecturer in Edinburgh, prompting their move to Duns.

Prior to that, the couple split their time between Africa and the Middle East where Archie treated a lot of children who desperately needed equipment.

She said: “I worked with a lot of children in Africa who had cerebral palsy.

“In this country, it’s usually the result of a child being born very premature.

“But in Africa, the causes are very different – a lack of anti-natal care and poor birthing conditions are the main causes.

“I found it very frustrating as I couldn’t get the equipment I needed to help these children.”

However, while home on leave in 1990, Archie came across a unique course being run by Jean at the City of London Polytechnic and decided to find out more.

She said: “Jean ran a course in paper technology which was amazing. I discovered I could create wheelchair inserts and standing frames to help the children, simply by using cardboard.”

The pair kept in touch and when Archie retired they started working for other charitable organisations, in the Middle East initially.

Archie recalled: “We were teaching people how to use the technology to help children but none of the organisations would fund us to follow-up on our training.

“It was so frustrating so we decided that we needed to set up our own organisation.”

They were given a helping hand by Glasgow man Allan Burns, whose daughter has severe cerebral palsy.

She was greatly helped by receiving Bobath treatment when she was young so Allan raised £1 million to establish a Scottish centre.

The Bobath Centre in London put Allan in touch with Archie and he helped her and Jean set up Cerebral Palsy Africa in April 2005.

“Allan was a huge help in sourcing funding for us but it did become harder after the economic downturn in 2008,” recalled Archie.

“We apply to foundations and grant bodies for three years of funding, as that enables us to not only deliver the training but also follow-up on it. It’s not always easy to source that funding.”

However, Archie and Jean are also assisted by a team of hard-working physiotherapists and occupational therapists in the UK who give up their annual leave to travel to Ghana and Malawi.

Archie added: “We never have to advertise as we have a waiting list of those who are willing to help, for which we are very grateful.”

Cerebral Palsy Africa trains technicians to make wheelchair inserts and standing frames that children need to use at home to help them to learn to sit, stand and use their hands. Incredibly, this equipment is made from waste paper and cardboard.

Baroness Sugg from the Department for International Development said: “UK aid is supporting Cerebral Palsy Africa to give some of the world’s most vulnerable children the opportunity to go to school.

“Small charities do an extraordinary amount of good in the world. Our Small Charities Challenge Fund is there to make sure they get the support they need.”

Visit www.cerebralpalsyafrica.co.uk to find out more.