How can I explain... There are no words to express! I can not count the number of tears of joy I cried today as I was able to give wheelchairs to people in desperate need! I feel like a kid in a candy shop! I love to help people in need!
When I woke up at 4:30 am to drive to Goascoran for our FIRST wheelchair giveaway, it was still dark. The birds were not yet singing and I was full of excitement. I went to the garage to wake up the good old Ford F350 where I could head for San Lorenzo to the wheelchair warehouse and then on to Goascoran, Valle. BUT IT WAS NOT TO BE! The steering wheel wouldn't turn. Upon careful revision I found that the rubberbelt that goes around the round wheel metal thing... behind the radiator thing that holds the hot water... was shredded. What am I to do???? Pray and make telephone calls! and tell myself "THIS WILL WORK OUT!"
I called my friend Patti that owns EXPLORE Rental Car and got her out of bed. But not before I had accidently called Patty Cruz and woken her up to ask about a rental car, she is NOT the rental car owner... OPPS! Patti rental car Patti... and I have become friends because of the Ford's transmission. (Meanwhile, Patty Cruz may never speak to me again!) Every day the transmission place told me the car would be ready tomorrow and every day I told her I would turn the car in tomorrow and every tomorrow turned into another day. Six weeks later I turned in the rental car and she almost fainted. Patti drove to her car rental place and rented me a car at 5 something in the morning! God bless you Patti! IF YOU EVER NEED TO RENT A CAR IN TEGUCIGALPA CALL EXPLORE RENTAL CAR AND TALK TO PATTI! Patty Cruz, please forgive me! I am not a morning person and my brain was not yet in gear.
For several days I have had a one hour program and lots of radio spots on the radio in Goascoran, Valle telling people that needed wheelchairs to arrive for a free wheelchair. Every invalid in Valle who didn't currently own a wheelchair was invited. Thank you Free Wheelchair Mission for donating the chairs.
I told the people over and over that rain or shine, I would be there with the wheelchairs and now my precious F350 was sick! There are lots of things that I am thankful for in my upbringing, not the least of which is the lesson that my parents taught me when I was young. "When you make a promise you keep it even if it hurts you!"
I have promised that rain or shine I will be there so now in the rental car, I race to San Lorenzo to load the rental truck which has a truck bed that is 3 feet shorter than the truck bed of the F350 and I still have to get 25 wheelchairs in it. Realizing that I am now behind schedule instead of 2 hours ahead of schedule, I make telephone calls as I drive. But thanks to Bob Harrison's teaching on Time Management, I was prepared for whatever might happen and I had started early enough that I was only going to be 30 minutes late. But I hadn’t figured in that it was so early in the morning that I missed all the rush hour traffic and it was Saturday, so there was even less and the little rental truck is a lot faster in the curves that the big F350. But the time difference didn't help at all with the problem of the small truck bed.
I called Angel Piña, of Goascoran and asked for help! Could he please send a truck the 45 minutes to San Lorenzo? "Yes!" he responded. So now all I had to do was get to the warehouse and load the truck. Jose "Chepe" Benavides' father, Filemon Benavides met me in Jicaro Galan at the police post and when we arrived in San Lorenzo, Kent Garcia Aguilar jumped in the truck and off we went to load the truck! And we loaded it full! We made it out from under the garage overhang by the skin of our teeth!
Now off we race to Goascoran. But we can't race very fast, because we have chairs stacked Honduran high on the back of the truck!
We arrived in Goascoran to families patiently waiting and we were only 15 minutes late. I might mention that we were early by Honduran time standards, BUT when there is a gift to be received many people arrive early.
Like any good organizer, I put the able bodied men to work unloading the trucks. Then I asked all the men to work putting the wheelchairs together.... and I taught them how step by step and they did it! We had about 20 men working about that many women supervising.
The biggest challenge was to keep them from jumping ahead of me and putting stuff in the wrong place. The next biggest challenge was to keep them from losing stuff before the wheelchairs were all together.
I had the tire inflator people take the chairs across the courtyard to fill the tires with air as we finished putting them together. When I turned around I found all the chairs full of people! They had decided that there might not be enough chairs, so they had taken up squatters rights while I had my back turned.
When I went over and asked what they were doing, they all started waving and blowing me kisses and begging me to take their photos!
I think the ring leader was the woman in the lime green shirt on the right. Just look at that grin and you can see that she is a character! She and her two brothers, the man to her left in the blue shirt and the man behind her in the green shirt, were all born with very short legs and club feet. To the left is a close up photo of one of her brothers. None of the three of them have ever had a wheelchair and they all three have monumental calluses on their knees and the sides of their feet.
Another trick the family members pulled was to say, "They are in the car and I can't move them here without a wheelchair." In that case, I sent them out to the car with an escort to make sure that they returned with family member in tow and the necessary paperwork to process them for the wheelchair.
We have learned through the years that things are not exactly as they seem. To receive a free wheelchair we require, a doctor's prescription, a copy of their identity card, a full body photo and their presence at the wheelchair giveaway. Many times people ask for things they do not need or want, where they can sell it. I cannot count the number of Bibles I have given away, only to find the people with no Bible a week later, because they sold it.
To the left is the other brother of the "ring leader" of the squatters.
Many older people arrived for chairs, but also some young children with various problems arrived. Below is a sampling of the “ancianos” as they are called in Spanish.
In Honduras there are many people who do not have cars and must move by walking or riding buses. For these people who have small children who are handicapped this is a huge problem. They have to stay home or carry the children everywhere they go on their backs or in their arms. Occasionally you will see a child in a wheelbarrow being pushed down the side of the road by an able bodied parent or sibling. For these children, a wheelchair opens up a whole new world to them. Suddenly they can do all kinds of things they could never do before. What a blessing to receive a gift like this!
I think the thing that was the funniest for me was that as we were leaving, driving down the Pan American Highway towards the next wheelchair giveaway I spotted a recipient. Immediately I took this photo. Then the new wheelchair recipient in his new wheelchair started waving at me from the bed of the pickup truck in front of me!
I have had a wonderful morning in spite of all the challenges! I hope this afternoon is as good!
Total: 19 wheelchairs given away!
San Lorenzo, here we come! It is 1:45 and I have a 45 minute drive to arrive in San Lorenzo in just 15 miutes. Will I make it? I doubt it, but they will wait! (by the way I am writing this after the fact, I am not wasting time right now)