|Greetings and Happy Friday!
Gertrude Musenero is 29 years old and lives in Busolwe, a small town in Uganda. At age three, she contracted a severe fever with long-lasting repercussions. Its ravages included loss of strength in her legs and she found herself unable to stand or even support herself with a cane. So for more than 25 years, Gertrude has been unable to walk.
Gertrude’s was only able to get around by crawling through the mud and dust. Imagine spending your adult life crawling daily on the hot earth. This circumstance would defeat many people, but Gertrude found the strength to pray. She prayed for a wheelchair to relieve the pain in her legs and to provide mobility that would allow her to go to church and visit with friends and relatives.
As Gertrude was helped into her very own FWM GEN_2 wheelchair, the look on her face changed. She displayed a new alertness and took a deep interest in the proceedings as the chair’s footrest was adjusted to fit her feet. Once Gertrude was properly positioned in her wheelchair, her expression beamed wonder and satisfaction. Her prayer was answered!
Thanks to your generosity and compassion, Free Wheelchair Mission was able to gift Gertrude with the mobility she had been praying for. Now this young woman with the fortitude of spirit to withstand years of crawling on the ground can look people directly in the eye. With a wheelchair to hold her up, she can live with dignity and independence. Thank you!
In collaboration with like-minded partners, Free Wheelchair Mission specializes in providing mobility to those in need. But did you know our partners serve people with disabilities in other ways as well? Today’s story highlights our work with our partner, FUSAL in El Salvador and their relationship with Padre Vito Guarato Center.
The PVG Center shelters and cares for children with disabilities. Sometimes these children are orphaned; other times, their parents cannot raise them. This past spring, we partnered with the Center to match 20 wheelchairs with special needs recipients.
One recipient, Walter Trejo, has lived at the Center for over 25 years. Walter, a native of El Salvador, was born with cerebral palsy and unfortunately his parents had economic struggles and did not feel able to care for a child with special needs. When Walter was 8 years old they brought him to the PVG Center.
Walter is now 34. Over the years, he has thrived at the Center. In his youth, dedicated Center staff taught him how to move around in a wheelchair. Before this spring, he had been using a 10 year old chair donated to the Center. Its parts were worn out, its cushion was uncomfortable and its brakes no longer worked well. In addition, the chair had become too small for Walter.
In May 2015, Walter received his very own FWM GEN_2 wheelchair. He was so happy! His new chair enables him to sit comfortably and get around easily. Walter takes great pleasure in visiting his friends throughout the Center. He loves salsa music and dedicates his day to spreading his positive energy to his friends at the Center. Because of his mobility, Walter is able to attend school and church and continues to make new friends.
Because of generous people like you, Walter is having the time of his life. The Center residents are so glad to see his smiling face as he comes by to visit them. Your gift of mobility brightens Walter’s days and spreads smiles throughout the Center. Thank you!
Blessings, Don Schoendorfer
At Free Wheelchair Mission, we always say the gift of one wheelchair can improve many lives. This is partly because families work as a unit. In developing countries, if one family member can’t work due to a disability, another family member usually has to stay home to care for them. Immediately, two possible sources of income are lost. On the upside, when a wheelchair does reach a family, more lives are impacted beyond just the recipient’s. This was the case for the Hong family in this week’s story.
Luong Tan Thanh was housebound and would cry from frustration and loneliness—he wanted to be able to go outside to enjoy the sunshine and fresh air. That is until our partner, Giving It Back to Kids brought him his very own GEN_2 wheelchair. But even with the new wheelchair, his wife had to push him more than 20 feet down a slope to get him outside. This tiring routine was difficult for her and dangerous for Thanh. So GIBTK went the extra mile and installed a wheelchair ramp to make it easier for him to go outdoors! Thanh’s wife’s thank you note below explains how happy she is with Thanh’s new wheelchair and the new ramp from GIBTK:
Thanks to the wheelchair and ramps, every day, I can push my husband to the yard. Then he uses his hands to push the wheelchair. He can move 100 METERS HIMSELF with the wheelchair! It is really incredible! He can walk 3 to 5 steps by leaning on the chair while I stand behind him (to avoid accidents). Thanh used to cry often but now he enjoys sunshine and blue skies, fresh air and being social again! The wheelchair and ramps have really transformed our lives.
What this note tells me is that one wheelchair and ramp immediately improved two lives. But I know that is just a starting point. Now Thanh can participate in family outings and be a part of his community once again.
THANK YOU from all of our wheelchair recipients ― and from all of us here at Free Wheelchair Mission.
Poet John Donne said, ‘No man is an island.’ No one knows this better than Kennedy Ngandu, a farmer in rural Zambia. When Kennedy reached his mid-70s, his legs began to fail him. This frightened him for more than one reason. He was worried about losing the freedom mobility offers, and as a farmer, he needed mobility to maintain his livelihood.
At the local clinic, Kennedy learned he might be suffering from Kaposi Sarcoma, an AIDS-related cancer. Suddenly, he needed help to go even a few steps and over time, the leg paralysis worsened until he became bedridden.
When you stop walking, that is when you appreciate the work of the legs so much. When you are in bed for 24 hours, it is not an easy matter. Sometimes I cried because there was no one to take me outside. My wife was unable to lift me and my adult sons were busy with their own families and daily obligations. Depending on others to move made life unbearable.
Kennedy’s sorrow lightened when he was given his very own FWM GEN_1 wheelchair. His renewed ability to go outdoors on his own lifted his spirits. Although he still struggles with poverty and leg pain, he feels a renewed joy in life. For Kennedy, mobility means self-sufficiency and dignity. His wheelchair lets him interact with his grandchildren and other relatives without feeling like a burden. He is happy in their presence once again.
Thank you for your help in easing the cares of recipients like Kennedy. The elderly have a wealth of experience to share and mobility allows them to spend time with their families and those they care for most. Your support and generosity makes a world of difference in the lives of wheelchair recipients throughout the developing world.
I am humbled every day from the stories we receive from the field. This week’s story is about a young man named John Chimbuvu from Maamba, Zambia. On their way to the district hospital to distribute wheelchairs, one of our partners encountered John on the side of the road as he waved them down.
A young man, dressed in a shirt and tie sitting on the side of the road signaled us to stop; he was looking for transportation to Maamba. As we talked to him, we discovered that we were all heading to the same place; the hospital assigned to distribute wheelchairs.
He told us his story: His name was John and he was disabled from birth. He had carved two short crutches with rubber soles that helped him get around. Living alone, with no spouse or children, he has had to rely on the kindness of fellow villagers to contribute food and basic necessities he needed to survive.
When we gave John his very own new GEN_1 wheelchair, he had a huge grin on his face and was so grateful. He knew that with the help of the chair, he would be able to move around his hut and yard. He might even be mobile enough to plant and harvest his own corn. John was happy, we were happy, and the village children seemed happiest of all as they pushed John home in his brand new wheelchair.
I love to share stories about recipients like John. Thank you for your generosity in helping people like John with the simple gift of mobility. Without your support, John would still be waiting on the side of the road. THANK YOU!
Occasionally we receive a story from the field directly from the recipient and I found the story of Yang Bao very compelling. So many of our wheelchair recipients live life from a backroom feeling depressed and even useless. Yang Bao is a 51 year old man from a remote village in Xixian County, Henan province, China who was involved in an automobile accident and left unable to walk.
My name is Yang Bao and several years ago a car accident separated me from the outside world. I only lay on the bed and cannot see the sun anymore. One day seems like a year.
My wife suffers from severe rheumatoid arthritis and can barely take care of herself. She cannot care for me and every day she sees me on the bed, she cries. Our daughter is married and lives far away, but she is the only one we can rely on to help care for us. We have no money or income and I am only a burden to my family. One day I decided to end my life and crawled to the kitchen to find a knife. My brother found me before I was able to harm myself and was very angry with me and said “a live dog is better than a dead lion, you are a pillar of the family. Dead is easy, but your family will suffer extreme pain that you will never know.”
From that moment on, I was determined to live strong! Being a former primary school teacher, I began teaching students from my home to feel useful, but I still could not get outside to smell the sunshine. Until one day when the Chinese Christian Council and the Henan Disabled Person’s Federation brought me my very own GEN_2 wheelchair from Free Wheelchair Mission. We were all overcome with joy. Now I can go outside to enjoy the smell of the sunshine and the spring flower blossoms. The sunshine warms the earth, I absorb power from the sun.
It is so heartwarming to hear what a difference the simple gift a wheelchair can make in someone’s life. Thank you for letting me share Yang Bao’s story and for all you do to provide mobility to those in need. So many are blessed because of the generosity of people like you! THANK YOU!
As many of you know, Thursday was our annual Miracle of Mobility event. As Founder and President of Free Wheelchair Mission, I have had the pleasure of watching this event grow over the last 12 years. This year, thanks to you, I am humbled and honored to share that we far exceeded our original goal of 14,702 wheelchairs. Through your generosity, we raised $1,623,030.80 which equates to 20,832 lives transformed. What an incredible accomplishment!
There were many memorable moments from our evening from the Harvest Praise Ensemble to the Beach Pointe Singers duet. But the one that stands out to me is the inspiring message from Nick Vujicic who brought the house to tears with his personal story of meeting people with disabilities in the developing world.
I was so pleased with the acknowledgement of our ambassadors; specifically Kevin Ely, whose goal is to run a marathon in all 50 states. So far he’s completed 38 states to raise money to fund a full container for 550 people who need wheelchairs. In less than a year, he’s raised over $31,000! Amazing! Kevin is not alone, there are many of you out there right now who are raising awareness about FWM and are providing mobility around the world with your efforts – THANK YOU!
I want to acknowledge our incredible event strategy team and volunteers, our motivational speaker Nick Vujicic, our dear friend Janice Munemitsu for the invocation and the FWM staff for organizing such a wonderful and purposeful evening.
On behalf of more than 860,000 wheelchair recipients worldwide, as well as 20,832 soon-to-be recipients as a result of last night’s event, I want to extend my most sincere appreciation to all of you, our attendees, sponsors and supporters who made each and every one of these newly transformed lives possible.