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Prisoners give freedom through wheelchairs

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ANGOLA - Each year, 600 wheelchairs are shipped to places like Romania, Africa and Cuba, places where some people are too poor to buy wheelchairs.

In those places, the men and women who can't walk must drag themselves around by their hands.  They have callouses on their knees.  Some must be carried everywhere they go.

Those are the photos you see when you walk through the doors to Wheels for the World inside the Angola State Penitentiary.  But they are not all sad; many photos show these people waving, with smiles so big it covers their faces.  Those people can barely express how happy they are to have a new wheelchair, one that was rebuilt at the hands of prisoners.

"I don't know if they know a prisoner made 'em, but I'm just happy they're getting 'em," Orlando Griffin said.  He's serving a life sentence plus fifty years at Angola, like so many other inmates who rebuild old wheelchairs donated to Wheels for the World.

The wheelchairs start as a mangled mess, with armrests and wheels missing.  Slowly, prisoners dismantle each chair.  They clean and polish the metal, repair torn seats, and add new wheels.  They hammer on new bolts and test out each one to make sure they work properly.  Some say they're better than new.

"We try to put love in every chair, just like we're doing it for our own family or something," Griffin said.

It's because these chairs give back something a lot of folks inside the walls of Angola will never see again: freedom.

"I feel like I'm a part of that, and it's what makes me happy," Tyrone Lindsey told News 2.

Friday, Angola will ship hundreds of chairs to the Dominican Republic.  If you'd like to donate to the cause, click here.


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