New Wheelchairs in High Places


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Another Wandering Samaritan, Emilia Epperly from Arizona , ventured out to the hills of Colombia, and what she made happen improved the lives of two and touched the hearts of many.  #ARMYOFGOOD. Check out her story:

I read about Angeles de Medellin in a travel blog and didn’t really know what to expect. I’d never volunteered internationally before, but was excited for the opportunity to see a different side of Colombia. Angeles de Medellin is a program helping poor and displaced children and families in the hills above Medellin. Located in the barrio of Regalo de Dios, it provides a safe environment for children and adults to learn English and computers as well as to play games and sports.

Wandering Samaritan Emilia Epperly with Luisa Fernandez and her father

Wandering Samaritan Emilia Epperly with Luisa Fernandez and her father

To get to the foundation, the director of the program Marcos Kaseman and volunteers take the Metro, then a cable car up into the hills, then a bus even higher. In general, the higher up people live, the poorer they are. When you get off of the bus, you immediately feel like you’re part of something important. People of all ages call out to Marcos as you pass, waving and smiling enthusiastically. The children begin to trickle in after school and the next three or four hours are non­-stop playtime. Some volunteers go upstairs across the street to teach English to young adults from the community. Everyone who participates is fully engaged. It’s still Colombia and there are still gangs present that extort the buses daily, but for the most part the community has embraced the Angeles de Medellin and they’ve made a significant impact.

Since my background is in occupational therapy, I asked Marcos if he knew any people with disabilities living up in the hills. He said that he knew two people that he could take me to visit. Luisa Fernanda and Faber Henao both have cerebral palsy and require assistance from their families for all self­care tasks.

Emilia helps Faber into his wheelchair while his mother and caretaker Maria stabilizes

Emilia helps Faber into his wheelchair while his mother and caretaker Maria stabilizes

They were both using old wheelchairs that had been donated­ years ago. The leather seats and backs were ripping, the leg rests were missing, the armrests were rusted in place, and neither had a seat cushion. These people spend 100% of their waking hours sitting in these wheelchairs and desperately needed new ones!

The horrible condition of their previous chairs, used for all their waking hours

The horrible condition of their previous chairs, used for all their waking hours

After getting the green light from The Wandering Samaritan to use Miracle Bank funds for new wheelchairs, the problem was finding chairs to buy! Marcos and I went to a few medical supply places, but none of them had wheelchairs that would fit Luisa and Faber. I started to get discouraged. Marcos reached out to his friend, Juan Pablo, who works at one of the hospitals in town, and he thankfully put us in touch with the company who supplies the hospital with wheelchairs. We went the next day and found two wheelchairs that would work for them! I was so incredibly excited! Getting the wheelchairs up there was the next hurdle, but Marcos paid for a taxi so we could bypass the Metro and cable car, then we lucked out and the bus was totally empty (which is abnormal). Plenty of room for the wheelchairs!

 

Luckily, an empty bus made the transport team's life much easier.

Luckily, an empty bus made the transport team’s life much easier.

The next day, we didn’t open the foundation so that we could have all the volunteers help take the wheelchairs up. We had to hire a local man with a truck to transport the chairs. We went to Luisa’s house first. She and her parents were in disbelief as the volunteers came down the hill with her brand new wheelchair! We helped transfer her into the chair and gave her parents a brief tutorial on the moving parts. The seat cushion will decrease the risk of skin breakdown and the new brakes will make her transfers safer.

 (press CC in the player below for subtitles)

Next we went to Faber’s house, where he lives with his elderly mother and caregiver, Maria. The look on Maria’s face was priceless and Faber’s excitement was palpable! The removable armrests will make transfers into/out of bed much easier and the elevating leg rests will provide needed support, as his spastic muscle tone makes it difficult for him to bend his knees.

 (press CC in the player below for subtitles)

The Wandering Samaritan program enabled us to make such a profound impact on the safety, comfort, and quality of life of these two incredible Colombians. I am so honored to be a part of it! Looking forward to other opportunities to help!

 

1Comment
  • tamara majkrzak
    Posted at 13:56h, 28 October Reply

    We know Emilia back home in Phoenix. We love seeing her helping so many. The smile on everyone’s faces says it all. We can be there with her in spirit! If you see her tell her hello from us!
    Tammy in Phoenix

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