Those who lack mobility will tell you that wheelchairs are not just an item, they are a tool for a better life.
Nowhere was this more evident than in the villages at the base of an active volcano near Colima, Mexico recently. It was here that Rotary members from clubs in Alaska, British Columbia and Mexico partnered with Project Amigo to foster hope, dignity and independence.
With the assistance of a Rotary Foundation Matching Grant funds had been raised to sponsor 260 all-terrain wheelchairs for young people and adults. Collaborating with local Rotarians, members in the community undertook a needs assessment to identify individuals who required a wheelchair but lacked the access or financial resources to obtain one.
Once the appropriate sizes were determined, the wheelchairs were ordered from a Mexican manufacturer, contributing new capital to the local economy. Following a positive audit of the wheelchairs for quality, they were distributed to recipients in the villages of Colima, Comala, Pihuamo and Cuidad Guzman.
But what is it about the provision of wheelchairs that makes such a profound impact on a community?
In North America we may take for granted that those who need a wheelchair or other mobility aid are able to obtain one. In many countries around the world such as Mexico this is not the case however, and the social and economic impacts are severe.
Individuals lose mobility for many reasons including birth injuries, diseases like diabetes or polio, and industrial or vehicle accidents. Many are unable to afford wheelchairs, and as a result family members often struggle to help them stay mobile so that they can live a meaningful life.
Children and teens who lack mobility are unable to attend school. Adults are reduced to crawling for lack of a wheelchair, sometimes confined to a bed or corner when family members can’t lift them.
As Christiana Flessner, Executive Director of the Canadian Wheelchair Foundation explained at a wheelchair distribution in Ciudad Guzman, Jalisco, “Many of the people you’re helping have left their houses today for the first time in weeks, or perhaps much longer. It’s also a huge economic impact on the family when the children can’t attend school.”
People who arrived that afternoon in Ciudad Guzman being carried in the arms of family members, riding in adapted bicycle carts, or bumping over the cobblestone streets on children’s toy carts left in new wheelchairs with mountain-bike tires designed to travel uneven terrain. And with them went the promise of new opportunities…..hope for a better future for them, their families and their communities.
The Canadian Wheelchair Foundation is an independent Canadian registered charity with the goal to deliver brand new, free wheelchairs to persons with physical disabilities throughout the world who are without mobility or the means to acquire a wheelchair. With a strong focus on developing and newly industrialized states, the Canadian Wheelchair Foundation continues to change the lives of people and communities with a gift that extends hope, dignity, opportunity and independence to all.