‘Junk’ equals mobility for less fortunate

By Jasminee Sahoye

Wheelchairs donated to Princess Elizabeth Centre for physically handicapped children in Trinidad.
Wheelchairs donated to Princess Elizabeth Centre for physically handicapped children in Trinidad.

A Canadian of Trinidadian heritage is proving that one man’s junk is another man’s treasure.

Kris Roopnarine, who has some technical knowledge, takes discarded wheelchairs, refurbishes them and then donates them to the needy in Canada and in the Caribbean.

He tells The Camera what he’s doing is a hobby, “it’s the most beautiful thing to do.” He wants to help make a difference in the lives of the less fortunate. He adds, while his family is doing well, there are many families in need who cannot afford to purchase a wheelchair or other items he donates.

The initiative started when one day Roopnarine was driving to work and noticed a wheelchair in the garbage. He picked it up, realized it needed minor repairs, and the rest is history.

He started to collect equipment and sometimes he has to take pieces from others to put together a proper functioning unit. He not only collects wheelchairs, but walkers, canes, crutches and commode chairs.

He says since he started last July, he has donated equipment to a number of local residents but also shipped some to Trinidad and Tobago and Guyana, through Q-Trex, a shipping company that offers a discount rate as their way of giving back.

When asked why he is using his time and money to donate the items, Roopnarine says, he does not use his personal finances but raises funds by refurbishing lawnmowers and other things he recycles and selling them on Kijiji, an online site.

The married father of two boys says his wife and immediate family have been very supportive of his cause by giving their time and expertise.

He adds, he started a Facebook page aimed at sharing what he’s doing and asking for donations of equipment, while encouraging others to get involved to help make a difference. He has also placed an ad on Kijiji to encourage anyone who has items they plan to throw out to get in touch with him. “I got my neighbours and friends to start collecting items and send to their families and friends in need.”

When he is unable to ship items, he contacts the consulates in Toronto and makes the donation of not only equipment but other things.

A few weeks ago he donated to the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Consulate 17 wheelchairs, crutches, 3,300 medical face masks, 2,000 pairs of sterile gloves, a bath chair and 220 three-ring binders for school children.

And earlier this month, the Consulate-General of Antigua and Barbuda in Toronto received a donation worth approximately $8,500, which included 11 tilt and fold wheelchairs, one motorized wheelchair, six rollator walkers, four walkers, three walking canes and two pairs of crutches.

Despite his efforts to help the less fortunate, Roopnarine says there have been some critics but “I have everything documented to show what I’m doing. There is no money involved. It’s pure. When I don’t have money, I don’t send!”