Free wheelchair Mission

By Marketta A. Davis

The Office of Hispanic Affairs held a tabling last Thursday, Sept. 22 in the CUB Lobby for the Free Wheelchair Mission, a nonprofit organization devoted to providing wheelchairs to the physically disabled in poor developing countries around the world.  The tabling included information pamphlets, a 5 gallon donation water bottle, and a wheelchair prototype.

Free Wheelchair Mission was founded in 2001 and is headquartered in Irvine, Calif.  They work in coordination with other humanitarian, government, and faith-based groups to assemble wheelchairs with low cost comfortable items.  The wheelchair’s main frame is constructed from a lawn chair, a footrest for the front, and a steel frame.  Other parts include a set of mountain bike wheels and brakes, the caster wheels (the smaller wheels in front), and even a bicycle pump and patch kit.  The organization has one main factory in Shanghai, China where all the parts are manufactured and shipped—unassembled—to their designated locations.  Before the local workers and volunteers unload and assemble the wheelchairs, they are distributed individually at ceremonies.

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Freewheelchair.org has information about their mission, how to get involved, and stories on how the wheelchair has impacted the various lives of people in need of them.  Many of these people were born without disabilities but were later exposed to malaria, a parasitic disease that runs rampant in foreign locations such as Brazil and countries in Africa.  People that experience severe cases of malaria and are left without mobility find it difficult to get to work, the store, or even the mailbox.  Free Wheelchair mission provides a new way of life for these people, their families, and their friends.

Rocky Emms, a sophomore at Eastern, expressed her satisfaction in being a part of this community service.  “I don’t get a lot of opportunities to volunteer because of my schedule, so when I heard about the Free Wheelchair Mission, it sounded like something worth my while.”  Emms found out about the program through her local membership in Kiwanis International, a club that offers various community services around the globe to include reading projects, child care development, and tetanus awareness.

Office of Hispanic Affairs Director Reydecel Coss held the tabling with Emms and he too found the service rewarding.  “It is a good project that Eastern should be a part,” he said.  He explained how the program at ENMU is intended to raise money for the manufacturing of the chairs that are distributed to the various countries.

The Free Wheelchair Mission tabling was a one day event but the Office of Hispanic Affairs will continue to accept donations throughout the semester.  Donations can be in any amount and checks can be written to a donor’s location of preference.  For more information on the project, please contact the Hispanic Affairs office at 562-2451 or visit www.freewheelchairmission.org.

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