Western students provide mobility devices to rural Indigenous communities

A Wheelchair refurbished and donated by RollUP. (Photo supplied by RollUP Solutions)

A social-business run by Western University students has teamed up with a Canadian charity to help bring mobility to rural Indigenous communities.

What started as an Ivey Business School project four years ago, turned into a full-blown business. RollUP Solutions collects donations of gently used wheelchairs and walkers that would otherwise go to a landfill, and refurbishes them, donates or re-sells them at a discounted rate.

Over the last several years, RollUP has worked with community partners to make devices more readily available in the London area.

Ivey student and RollUP’s Head of Partnerships Kyleigh Stubbs says, since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the team had been looking at other areas in need of support. They started by making small donations to local hospitals including St. Thomas Elgin General Hospital and Stratford General Hospital.

“Instead of paying money for wheelchairs that we could help out with, [the hospitals] could be putting that money towards supporting the community a bit more, or supporting their staff that’s been working on COVID-19 relief efforts, so we’re kind of strategic in how we donate our inventory,” Stubbs explained.

Following the hospital donations, RollUP determined there was an even greater need in remote areas where resources are minimal. In some cases, COVID patients have no access to mobility devices while in isolation facilities

“Recently we have focused on getting these devices to more rural communities because we know there’s very limited access to these devices, some individuals are on a waitlist for years,” Stubbs said.

Last month, RollUP donated over 120 walkers and wheelchairs to northern Ontario and Manitoba, where many of the reserves are fly-in only. Stubbs said the donation was made in collaboration with True North Aid, a charity that provides humanitarian assistance to Indigenous communities.

“Over 200 elders are supported through this donation,” Stubbs said. “So I definitely see this as something like a partnership that we want to continue into the future to support them.”

While COVID-19 restrictions continue to cause operational delays for many businesses, RollUP has been able to grow its platform. An ambassador program for secondary school students will introduce interested high schoolers to the business world while also allowing them to earn volunteer hours.

Stubbs hopes that by growing the brand’s presence within the community, the more people in need of mobility devices will get them.

“We can only function on the donations of our community members so without that initial donation piece we have no devices to upcycle,” Stubbs said.

More information on how to make a device donation, and more about RollUp’s future projects can be found on its website.