Circles of Life: The Wheelchair Project
by Lisa Fernandez
Imagine this as your life: your house is a two-room structure with a corrugated metal roof and plywood or plastic sides, set up high on a muddy, uneven hillside. Here you live with your four children, spouse, and mother-in-law. Rooms are divided by a curtain, the cooking stove set only feet from the beds. One of your children has cerebral palsy and is unable to walk. Lacking space and chairs, this child spends most of his day in bed, without stimulation or play. His only chance to leave the house is when you carry him on your back down the muddy slope.
Can a wheelchair change this child’s life, and the life of his family? Despite the obvious limitations, the answer is yes. A wheelchair provides a comfortable and ergonomically beneficial place for this child to sit. Now he has a place at the table, a view of daily life in his home, a measure of dignity. His parents, despite the hardship, can and will carry that wheelchair down the hill and take him with them into the city to do their daily business. He can now go to school with the other children.
The Wisconsin/Nicaragua Wheelchair Project (WNWP) just completed its seventh annual wheelchair distribution in Matagalpa, Nicaragua. WNWP has now distributed over 800 wheelchairs to handicapped children and adults in Matagalpa and beyond. During last month’s distribution week, families came from over 12 hours away to obtain a wheelchair for their handicapped child. The word is out—the wheelchair workshop in Matagalpa is open year-round, providing professionally fitted and adapted wheelchairs at no cost to the recipients. A great joy of mine during the wheelchair workshop this year was to observe the nearly constant fl ow of people coming in to obtain wheelchairs, canes, walkers or crutches. People are coming year-round, from all around, knowing that they can get what they need at the workshop in Matagalpa. Many have traveled great distances; maybe this was the lucky day they were able to get a ride to Matagalpa, after waiting weeks or months. All are welcomed, served, and treated with respect.
The Wisconsin/Nicaragua Wheelchair Project changes lives for the better every day. The project will enter a new phase during the next year, as we explore links with other aid groups and funding sources. Our goal is to provide transportation to people in other municipalities, so they can travel to the wheelchair workshop in Matagalpa to obtain wheelchairs for their handicapped children. The cost of transportation is currently the main limiting factor for those in need of wheelchairs, and we at WNWP are confi dent that this barrier can be overcome. We hope that someday, every handicapped child and adult in Nicaragua will have access to the wheelchair they need. WNWP is just another way Sharing Resources Worldwide is “recycling resources, restoring hope”!