Antigua is returning to normal after the hectic Easter
period with its magnificent processions and street carpets made of colored sawdust. Now it’s the Transiciones wheelchair factory that is once again busy improving people’s lives.
I’m so proud of how dedicated everyone here is to the work we do. I hope these stories show you where that dedication comes from.
Sponsoring wheelchairs for young and old
Nina has lived all of her 80 years in Chuchu, an indigenous village on the Fuego volcano. Severe arthritis robbed her of the ability to walk, so her family had to carry her everywhere. Solution: a wheelchair sponsored by a visiting group from the Isle of Hope United Methodist Church in Savannah, Georgia, led by Minister Shannon Baxter. This was a rare occasion when Transiciones recommended a conventional hospital style chair. Nina cannot mobilize herself, but pushing her wheelchair will be much easier for her family. Isle of Hope’s care and generosity didn’t end there. They also sponsored three wheelchairs for children with cerebral palsy. A life-changing gift. It was great to hear from the visitors that while their group was small, everyone in the congregation of 2800 members back in Savannah was proud to be part of the work done by Transiciones.
Physical therapy students get hands-on experience
The recent delivery of wheelchairs to 12 children with severe disabilities was a truly moving event. It also became an opportunity for some visiting physical and occupational therapy students from the University of New England in Maine to see first-hand the bigger picture of what Transiciones and its supporters, can do. Led by our long-time friend, Dr Jennifer Audette, the director of the University’s Physical Therapy Program, the students spent two days participating in the delivery and practising essential skills in how to interview the families, make evaluations and provide advice on maintaining the health of children with disabilities. Health advice is important to prevent muscle contracture and improve posture. Dr Audette said it was profoundly enlightening for the students to see the realities of disability for poor children in Guatemala, but also to see the ingenuity and resourcefulness of local providers and experts.
A class in saving lives
Not everyone knows about the danger wheelchair users face from life-threatening conditions like pressure sores and a range of other infections. Even less so, how to treat and prevent those conditions. To share this essential knowledge, Transiciones has started giving talks at disability organisations and hospitals. Other subjects include making sure you have the right type of wheelchair and how to look after it. We believe this is information should be widely circulated to health professionals, families and wheelchair users themselves, and with the help of our supporters, that’s what we’re doing.
Our new physical therapy clinic offering essential support
Getting that first wheelchair or prosthetic limb is like a miracle for the people who come to Transiciones for help. But sometimes, even miracles need preparation and follow up. So we are very grateful for the Rotary Global Grant that has allowed us to hire a physical therapist. The grant is funded by seven Rotary clubs, led by the club in Abbotsford, Canada. Our new PT, Jaidy Sanchez, has experience in the public and private rehab sector. Her main focus here will be evaluating new users of wheelchairs, prosthetics and orthotics, and suggesting exercises for muscle strength and to prevent other complications. Members of the public who need PT can also make appointments. We have renovated a space for the physical therapy clinic within the Transiciones premises. It’s wonderful that we can now offer this extra level of support for healthy and independent living.
Volunteer profile: Eric Moe – trumpet player to wheelchair maker
It’s always a thrill for Transiciones volunteer, Eric Moe, when he meets the kids who receive wheelchairs that he helped to build. Eric is used to making people happy because he’s also a professional trumpeter with the Spokane Symphony Orchestra in Washington State. Now living with his family in Guatemala, Eric is a regular volunteer in the noisy and productive Transiciones factory where he has been honing his metal work skills. Recently, he brought along his teenage son, Owen – maybe another volunteer in the making! Eric loves running and roasting coffee, but these days he’s also pretty good with the metal file and socket wrench. The latest beneficiary of Eric’s skills was Beatriz, age 11, who has cerebral palsy. She had an old, donated wheelchair at home, but it was so heavy that her mother could barely push it. Beatriz laughed through her visit to Transiciones when she came to collect her personalized hot pink Tikal wheelchair.
Transiciones is a busy place and there are always more stories than I have time to tell. I hope you’ve been inspired by what you’ve read here. There’ll be more inspiration in our next newsletter.