Factory Builds Wheelchairs for Disabled Guatemalans

6 years 3 months 1 week ago December 15, 2010 Dec 15, 2010 Wednesday, December 15 2010 Wednesday, December 15, 2010 12:45:25 PM CST in News
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ANTIGUA, GUATEMALA - Stuck in a corner. On the end of a quiet Guatemalan street. At the beginning of a very sheltered life. At 22 years old Maria Christina Mendoza doesn't get to see the world. At 22 years old her mother says Maria's never been beyond the sidewalk outside her own home. In Central America disabilities are looked on as a curse. It's a place where families forget about those with special needs. And often the need is for mobility.

"There are thousands and thousands of children that need is for mobility, it's tragic, but true," said Mark Richard, Director of Hope Haven Guatemala.

Richard runs a factory in Antigua, Guatemala where they make pediatric wheelchairs in four different sizes. People at this factory work through the day knowing what they do can only help.

"There's satisfaction knowing it's useful for other people," Gustavo Vasquez said.

Each employee plays a different role. All the way up to the point when they give the chairs away. That feeling, Omar Cruz says, is like none other.

"The parents, like the mothers, say god bless you, thank you very much for helping my kid, and sometimes I don't know what to say," Cruz said. "Sometimes it's almost made me cry."

But what makes this wheelchair factory even more special is that all the workers are in wheelchairs, too.

"My mother says no you don't have your legs, but you have your brain, and your arms, so come on, you can do it," Cruz said.

Hope Haven International runs the wheelchair factory.  Two years ago it began producing wheelchairs in Guatemala. Turns out, that was just the start.

"Right now we're looking at a facility in the neighborhood of 10-15,000 square feet that would provide a place of employment and an opportunity to produce the wheelchairs," said David Vanningen, Chief Executive Officer of Hope Haven International said. "We believe very firmly that god has given us all gifts and talents and that every person is made in his image."

Vanningen said it doesn't take a whole lot to reach out to your neighbor with a helping hand, but it takes more than that to embrace these people as your friend. And for people like Maria Christina Mendoza, she doesn't have friends. Her neighbors she may never know. But with some help from a few strangers, maybe she too can find a way.

 

 

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