Saturday, September 11, 2010

Giving Wheelchairs

We have been busy lately, bringing to fruition a wheelchair project started in late February and culminating just last week. We have been so engrossed that even blogging took a back seat! For those faithful followers with twisted nighties, I hope this post (with 37 pictures and the video) redeems me!

Soon after entering the Missionary Training Center a year ago, we were taught how the Church uses it's senior missionaries to carry out humanitarian giving throughout the world. In 2 weeks we removed the label "Retired" from our vocabulary and learned a new business, the business of helping the poor and others who need us. Couples like us are all over the world, in developing countries where there are huge social needs. We spend our days traveling around this big city or to small villages finding community organizations who aid schools, hospitals, orphanages, nursing homes, etc. We spend our nights at the computer, submitting proposals for approval. I have blogged about some such projects--giving Braille writers, goats, computers, rebuilding bathrooms and more. Currently, we have 8 projects decorating our dining room table in differing stages of completion. In addition to these small, manageable local projects, the Church also trusts us with huge projects we call 'Major Initiatives' which include 5 areas of focus: Clean Water, Neonatal Resuscitation, Vision Care, Nutrition, and Wheelchairs. Different areas of the world receive different projects and Romania's this year has been all about Wheelchairs and in November, Neonatal Resuscitation.

The Church is amazing and wonderful. There are 51,000 young missionaries all over the world spreading the Restored Gospel as Jesus taught, to all corners of the Earth. They are having great success as they find people who are prepared and ready to hear. Senior missionaries are all over the world as well, with differing assignments. As humanitarian missionaries, we work to alleviate suffering and promote self-reliance. What other business or organization would hire people in their 60's from various occupations from farmers to CEO's to Realtors, train them on the job, trust them with thousands of dollars to distribute, and send them to developing countries to get the job done in 18 months? The young missionaries teach who we are, why we're here, and where we're going. The joke among the senior missionaries is that we wear a name tag to remind us WHO we are, and if we don't have a ready map, we're not sure WHERE we are or WHERE we're going or even WHY we're going!

Since we've been in Romania, we have imported 875 wheelchairs. There are more on the way! The project just completed in Cluj involved much more than ordering and delivering wheelchairs. I will explain with pictures.

There are 250 wheelchairs stacked in this gym awaiting distribution.

Last March, the Jacksons traveled from their home in Draper to Romania to help us write the project. They became our good friends as we were in constant contact with them over Skype for the last 6 months. They are missionaries themselves who travel the world kicking off projects. They are wheelchair 'experts' and they have 5 projects in the works for this year alone.

A laptop, nourishment and papers galore...and it was just the beginning.

With them, we traveled 300 miles north of Bucharest to Cluj where we met with Sally Wood-Lamont, the president of a foundation that champions the disabled. In this picture, Doug is explaining the virtues of the RoughRider wheelchair. Sally's role will be to gather 14 people together from different locations throughout Romania who will get a portion of this shipment. They will attend a 3-day course presented by physical therapists from the USA to learn how to properly fit and adjust this new rough-terrain wheelchair.

The team arrived a few days before the training. Here, Lara and Doug are installing the banner.

Tires are pumped and so are we! Now, all we need are the students.

After short opening remarks, t-shirts were presented and this picture was taken.

We were fortunate to have two of the best teachers...Lara and Misha. They have years of teaching and hospital experience and they were tons of fun, to boot! Calin assisted as an interpreter as their 'Romaneste' was limited!

Many of the students were wheelchair users which made them very attentive.

Also a bonus a bonus was that Lara was a former Utah Jazz dancer!
Lara and Misha taught well together. As you can see, all eyes are riveted on them. They were (to use a Romanian term) 'fetching'!

Our 2 translators were indispensable. President Iupure (standing) is the President of the Cluj Branch and Calin (background) is a young student in medical school.

Testing the equipment on a field trip.

The wheelchairs were met with wide acceptance, especially from the 'experts', regular wheelchair users.

These wheelchairs were developed for rough terrain areas of the world--African sand, Romanian land-mine sidewalks etc. Their wide front tires can plow through almost anything.

As part of the course, the participants were taught to adjust each chair to fit different needs of the rider.

Everyone got involved with the adjusting.

At noon, we had lunch. It was a time to chill with friends.

Lara, Misha and Calin with a star of the class. Smiles abounded!

Finally, it was time to put new skills to practice when new recipients arrived to get their new chair. Some came on crutches, some in borrowed wheelchairs, and one came being carried by an older brother. Teams worked together to measure and adjust and watch the smiles on faces.

As this man is being assessed, the whole process is being observed by Elder Colton, our Area Welfare Specialist who came from Germany for the final day.

Following are pictures of some of the recipients.

Finally, it was time for celebrating. In the crowd was President Lundberg of the Romania Bucharest Mission, and other dignitaries. It was filmed by a TV station from Bucharest.

President Lundberg speaking to the assemblage.

Denny presented a crystal plaque to Sally, our great partner. She is from Scotland and came soon after the revolution in the early 1990's and has been a champion of the disabled ever since.

Certificates were awarded, along with a kiss from Lara, to all the class members.

The picture of success!

As we closed the gate to the 100 year-old School for the Blind, our training location, we took one final picture.

These two made it all happen!

It was a ton of work to pull this all together but having this crew made it so much fun.

So, I hope this explains why this blog is 3 weeks overdue. Stand up, untwist your nightie...
Don't miss the video in the next blog!

1 comment:

  1. AMAZING...and I feel so much better now that my G's aren't in a knot!! guys look soooooooo happy and I'm happy for you. You're doing a great work and the smiles show it all...yours and the recipients. Keep on keepin' on!!