The first night on assignment in Guatemala David Vanningen the Chief Executive Officer of Hope Haven International told me the need is great for all people in Guatemala, but even more so for people with disabilities. That statement turned out to be so very true. Driving along the countryside I saw living situations like I never have before, and by the end of the trip I realized many of those people in those very situations are the so-called “fortunate” in Guatemala. Living with a disability is a curse to the family, that’s how many people see it. It’s sad. It really is. These kids, adults, sometimes senior citizens have been written off their whole life and never once been given an opportunity. That’s why I was so pleased to see the Wheelchair factory and what Hope Haven Guatemala is doing for these people.
One of the individuals I really connected with on the trip was our translator Omar Cruz. Cruz works at the factory in Guatemala and we picked him up on the way to Antigua. Our plane flew into Guatemala City, the same place where Cruz lives on the weekend. In the city, traffic is crazy, and people are absolutely everywhere. There aren’t actual bus stops, they just kind of slow down and people literally jump on. That makes it tough when you’re disabled. Our bus made a very quick stop, our driver lifted Cruz and his chair onto the bus and off we went. That was kind of the first sign that something wasn’t right for the handicapped. There wasn’t a wheelchair ramp, there wasn’t anyway he could have gotten on that bus unless someone physically lifted him. That’s not right. As the week went on Cruz showed us how he wasn’t going to let anyone tell him that he couldn’t do something just because he can’t use his legs. He was an inspiration to say the least.
Vanningen told me about Hope Haven’s mission to not only reach out to the disabled, but to embrace these individuals as friends. When I was able to take a few minutes and talk to these people, each and every one of them are just like you and I. The fact that they’re forgotten is tragic, and something needs to be done.There are several organizations worldwide working to help the disabled in the developing world and I encourage you, if you are able, to reach out to them with a helping hand. What I witnessed in Central America was unforgettable. I know we don’t see this everyday, but we must act.
Be a part of the solution and do something for the the disabled today.