Molly’s South America Trip Report

It takes a lot of work—and collaboration with our partners in each country—to make our dream of lifting people off the ground a reality. Much of that work takes place through emails and video calls, but some of it needs to happen face-to-face. One FWM staff member just returned from visiting partners in Ecuador, Peru and Argentina, and she’s excited to share some of the process and the value of training together in person. In Molly’s own words:

Each country and each Distribution Partner (DP) has a different set of circumstances, needs and cultural characteristics. Each FWM DP has a different team, style and approach in regards to their Wheelchair Program. What is so exciting for me is to see the ways our partners have introduced Wheelchair Programs in unique and creative ways. They have each assessed the needs of those with disabilities in their communities and are using their creativity to serve both the recipients and the families with dignity.

Molly for FSMany DPs are working tirelessly to include those who have previously been banished from their community, to remind each person of their value and worth in Jesus Christ, to show each person they too have something to contribute to their community and to advocate for those with disabilities who previously had no voice.

FWM’s commitment is to provide the tools needed to serve each individual with dignity and honor. This includes training our Distribution Partners on how to best prescribe and fit FWM wheelchairs to each recipient’s needs and training the recipient on how to use the wheelchair safely. It also includes trainings and demonstrations so the families learn how to care for those with disabilities, as well as providing support and spare parts to help keep the wheelchairs up and running as long as possible.

We still have a lot of work ahead of us to train and develop our Distribution Partners, but it is exciting to see the ways our partners are responding with excitement and enthusiasm as we work together to provide the life changing gift of mobility.

Thank you, our generous supporters, for the invaluable role you play in empowering our DPs to change lives.

Don Schoendorfer

P.S. Miracle of Mobility will be here in just over a month, and we know it will be an amazing night. We hope you’re planning to join us, and we hope you’re sharing the excitement with your family and friends!


Thankful for Dads

As Father’s Day approaches, I’m aware of how much weight is on the shoulders of the dads we work with around the world.

We see a lot of fathers at wheelchair distributions. Sometimes they are carrying their children or wives or parents to receive a wheelchair, and their joy at seeing their family members gain mobility is tremendous. But often dads arrive on distribution day, and they are in need themselves. Many men have suffered injuries or illnesses and lost their mobility. Because of that, many of them have lost the ability to provide for their families. They may be in pain physically but so many are more pained at their inability to work and care for their families. Many have lost all hope and feel guilt and shame that now their families must struggle to care for them.

Witnessing a father placed in a wheelchair is indescribable. Hope returns. The possibility of reentering their communities and the workforce washes over them. Relief floods their faces as they see their loved ones will no longer have to carry them. It is an amazing sight!


This weekend as we honor fathers, we are so grateful for your generous support and desire to change the lives of dads around the world with the gift of mobility!

Don Schoendorfer

P.S. We are six weeks away from our annual Miracle of Mobility. We hope you’ll join us and invite your friends, too!

From Calamity to Commerce

Thirteen years ago a flash flood came through Gilgit-Balitstan, Pakistan. The waters destroyed Nizam-Ud-Din’s home. His father was killed, and he and his two siblings were left with permanent disabilities. Though he was still a teenager, Nizam-Ud-Din became the sole breadwinner for his family. For years they struggled as he tried to earn money and care for himself, his brother and sister.

IMG_6145In 2014, Nizam-Ud-Din opened a small shop, but with his limited mobility it was hard for him to get to the shop and move around within it. Then in early 2016 the Al-Khidmat Foundation gave him a new GEN_2 wheelchair. Nizam-Ud-Din was overcome with emotion as he learned to use his wheelchair and realized how significantly it would change his life.

Now he can easily get to work each day, his business is thriving and he is able to provide all the care his family needs. What a blessing!

Thank you, our generous supporters, for providing the transforming gift of mobility to people around the world.

Don Schoendorfer

P.S. Did you hear our exciting news? For the third year in a row Free Wheelchair Mission has received Charity Navigator’s 4-star rating, and Intelligent Philanthropy has recognized us again for our commitment to transparency.

New Hope

It’s hard to believe it’s already June! As students finish out the school year, we are reminded not everyone around the world has an equal opportunity to receive an education.

FridayStory_060316One of our distribution partners, American Nicaraguan Foundation (ANF), shared Gonzalo’s story with us. Gonzalo wasn’t able to attend school and started working as a child. He collected and sold firewood from his horse-drawn cart. When he was 15, he was hit by a car and left paralyzed. His parents and siblings cared for him, but Gonzalo was frustrated by his dependence and the financial burden he created for his family. Yet, without mobility or an education, he couldn’t get a job.

When Gonzalo received his GEN_1 wheelchair, he was quick to thank ANF for his new mobility and independence. He is hoping he will now be able to find work and help pay for his own expenses. After years of relying on his family, he’s optimistic he’ll be able to help provide for them now, too.

Every single day lives are being changed with the gift of mobility. Thank you, our generous supporters, for driving these life transformations!

Don Schoendorfer


Last fall, one of our staff members led a training in Ecuador, and an attendee commented, “We are becoming familiar with far more than just the wheelchair’s mechanical assembly. It’s important to become acquainted with both the technical and the human aspect of how to treat the patient adequately and even how to adjust the wheelchair according to his needs so as to provide him with a better quality of life.

In the last six weeks, a series of devastating earthquakes rocked Ecuador. More than 7,000 buildings have been destroyed. More than 26,000 people have been displaced, and more than 8,300 have been injured. There is no quick fix in the face of natural disasters. Deaths, injuries, lost livelihoods, insecurity, fear, grief and countless unknowns are part of a new reality for so many Ecuadorians.

Our partners in Ecuador are keeping us apprised of the conditions, and we are working in close conjunction with them to meet whatever needs we can. These situations remind us that this is one of the reasons Free Wheelchair Mission exists—to serve, to meet needs, to value and transform the lives of those who are living with disabilities in an inhospitable world.

Thank you for having a heart for the nations—a heart for Ecuador—and for believing the gift of mobility can change lives.

Don Schoendorfer

Will you join us?

Greetings, Name, and Happy Friday!

On Thursday, July 28, Free Wheelchair Mission will hold its 13th annual Miracle of Mobility fundraising gala. This festive evening will feature inspiring stories of faith, hope and transformation and will include a very special guest speaker, Tim Tebow, who—like Free Wheelchair Mission—is passionate about serving those with disabilities around the world.

Tim Tebow, known for his accolades on the football field, is the son of missionaries, and even after moving to Florida as a child he returned to the Philippines as a teenager to spread God’s word and serve the needy. As a collegiate and professional athlete, he maintained his strong commitment to charitable pursuits. In 2010 he formed the Tim Tebow Foundation to bring Faith, Hope and Love to those in their darkest hour of need.

FridayStory_052016Operation Blessing—one of our distribution partners—has made two deliveries of FWM wheelchairs to the Tebow CURE Hospital in the Philippines. Charmaine is one of the patients who has been using a GEN_1 wheelchair as she recovers from surgery to correct her club foot. Though initially scared to undergo surgery, she was encouraged when she saw a classmate return to school after the same operation. At the end of May, Charmaine will be back at the Tebow CURE Hospital to have her progress checked and her casts removed, and hopefully she’ll be leaving the wheelchair behind and walking soon!

Stories like Charmaine’s are possible because of generous people like you supporting organizations—like FWM, Operation Blessing and Tebow CURE Hospital—who work together to transform lives.

These are the kinds of stories and collaborations we will be celebrating at Miracle of Mobility. We can’t wait to hear the message Tim Tebow will bring, and we hope you will join us on July 28!

Don Schoendorfer

P.S. Will you help us spread the word about Miracle of Mobility? It’s easy, just forward this email to a friend. It will be a great night, and we hope you’ll be a part of it!


Seeing Firsthand

Last week Angela, our National Development Director, was on vacation with her family in Mexico, and she sent our staff the following email:

My family and I have had a great time soaking up the Yucatán sun. We couldn’t miss the opportunity to visit the amazing Mayan Ruins of Chichen Itza, which was one of the largest Mayan cities located in the eastern portion of Yucatán state in Mexico.

It took 2.5 hours on a bus to arrive to our destination. The road trip reminded me of many mission trips I’ve been on because we got to see the “true” Mexico away from all the resorts along the beach. 

luiz arroyaAlong the way one of our stops was in the small town of Valladolid. This is where you will see the majority of the townspeople still using the typical dress of the Mayans, and the buildings around the Main Plaza painted pastel colors.

Most of the tourists went shopping while we were eager to see the very old Catholic Church of San Servacio since it was Sunday and a service was going on. As we walked out of the church we encountered a young man seated in one of our GEN_2 wheelchairs! It was such an amazing moment for me to find him randomly. Luiz was 24 years old and couldn’t really talk. He had gotten into a really bad fight and lost his ability to walk 10 years earlier. He got his wheelchair 4 years earlier. You could tell he has a lot of miles on it. His mother was sitting behind him. We chatted for several minutes. For me it was so special because my kids and hubby got to see our work in action. My kids got to see firsthand what we do. Thank you everyone for all your hard work!!!

And thank you for your generous support that makes each and every wheelchair a life-changing reality for people around the world.

Don Schoendorfer