Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
May 24, 2010
Wheelchairs provide liberty to 70 Haitians
A Lloydminister teen describes his emotion-filled trip when wheelchairs were given to Haitians
SPECIAL TO THE WCR
I am a 17-year-old student from Lloydminster. I was granted an amazing opportunity when my grandparents phoned and asked if I wanted to go with them to Haiti to deliver wheelchairs.
It was a life-changing experience and so hard to put into words. We were a group of 16 from Canada, the U.S. and the Dominican Republic.
We arrived in the Dominican Republic late at night on April 25. The next morning, we made sure everything was in order before leaving. I was surprised at the time it took to drive from Santo Domingo (the capital of the Dominican) to Port-Au-Prince. It was a seven-hour drive, so it took most of the day to get to Haiti.
Along the way, we passed many different tent cities that had been set up to house those left homeless after the earthquake.
We stopped at the University of Miami Field Hospital to get things ready for the wheelchair delivery the next morning. After making the arrangements, we drove to the orphanage where we would spend the night.
I didn't know what to expect. At first, the kids were shy, but then they became accustomed to us and it was all good. We stopped and purchased food and fuel to cook supper. It was an awesome supper of rice, noodles, chicken and veggies cooked over a charcoal fire.
We didn't have many options for sleeping. Some chose to sleep in the bus; my grandparents had cots to sleep on; I slept under the stars on a cardboard box. The moon was almost full, so we had light and we were in a big enough group to feel safe.
In the morning, I played soccer with the boys and had lots of fun with them. At first they didn't want to have their pictures taken. Soon they were busy taking my picture. The problem is I am six foot, two inches tall and they cut off my head in most of the photos.
I had collected 300 pounds of school supplies to take to Haiti, which we gave to the children at the orphanage.
One little boy had an abscess growing on the back of his head, so we brought him to the University of Miami hospital to have this growth looked at. Then we prepared the wheelchairs and got ready for the ceremony. The supreme knight, the head of the 1.8 million members of the Knights of Columbus, came to be a part of the distribution.
One woman's story was very touching. She had been buried under the rubble for four days and then left outside of two other hospitals until someone brought her to the U of Miami hospital.
Once the presentation was over, we left because the border crossing closed at six. Hector (a man who started a foundation to help Dominicans and Haitians in 1992) was our coordinator and shared many stories about people, the country and its history as we travelled.
One of the major things that shook me was that the Haitian National Soccer team died in the quake. They were practising and the stadium fell on them.
Once we crossed the border and had driven for a while, Hector pointed out a plain beside a river. He said that in 2007 a flash flood came down from the mountains and took 100,000 people with it in one night. This was shocking, since I had never heard anything about this.
After several hours on the road we asked Hector, "How long until we can stop to eat?" He replied "15 minutes." After another hour of driving he asked, "Do we want to stop to eat before we eat?"
People weren't sure what he meant but everyone on the bus agreed that we should keep driving.
So after another hour we stopped for food. Hector's 15 minutes turned out to be two hours. We got back at our hotel around 11 p.m.
GIFT OF MOBILITY
On April 28 we had a distribution of 70 wheelchairs at our hotel in Santo Domingo. This was an amazing experience as I was able to personally place people in wheelchairs. We don't realize what a gift our mobility is, the ability to walk, run, even get up off a chair.
A man who had been hurt while working in Haiti was given a wheelchair and it really touched me as I witnessed his joy. A little boy about four years old was given a chair. Once he learned how to move in it, his whole being was so happy and full of life.
Delivering wheelchairs is amazing. To witness the difference a wheelchair can make in one's life is incredibly powerful.
There are 100 million immobile people in the world. Let's share some of what we have with others. For more info on the Canadian Wheelchair Foundation, see their website www.cdnwheelchair.ca.
Copyright © 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 -- Western Catholic Reporter
Our mission: To serve our readers by bringing the Gospel to bear on current issues in the Church and in secular culture through accurate news coverage and reflective commentary.