South of the border

Monday, January 31, 2005

ALAJUELA, Costa Rica - In November, CRTS Tom Hafford and rehab technician Jim Smith answered the call.
Jim Smith (left) of Texas DME shows Guilermo’s mother how to use a back-mounted joy stick to drive over irregular ground near her home

Wheels for Humanity founder David Richard contacted NRRTs, which Hafford and Smith belong to, seeking someone in a hurry to fly here and recycle used wheelchairs for disabled people. The duo from Texas DME in Cleburne, Texas, couldn’t say no.

“The rewards are two fold,” said Hafford, who has made two previous trips to Central America with the non-profit group. “There is a great personal satisfaction in being able to help somebody, but there is also the chance to go to a foreign country without being a tourist. You get immersed in the culture. The people are real people. They are not just something you look at through the window of a tour bus.”

Wheels for Humanity provides donated wheelchairs to disabled people in developing countries who have no access to assistive technology.

In general, it requires two or three used chairs to make one good one. The donated chairs this time ranged from a 20-year-old, belt driven Everest and Jennings chairs to several newer Invacare Storm and Quickie-Zippie P500s. By recycling motors, seat frames, armrests and controls, Hafford and Smith fashioned about 30 usable chairs.

In mid January, the local Lions Club was scheduled to distribute the chairs with fitting help from Wheels for Humanity rehab experts. In addition to recycling the used chairs, Hafford and Smith showed Lions Club members how to maintain them.