Zambia, Africa: Catholic Brother Ambrose has been helping to give out PETs in Zambia, and he provides us with this fascinating story:
When Evans Bwalya was a little baby, his family was traveling from Kitwe back to their remote village on top of a mountain of supplies on the back of a truck – 26 people in all. The driver lost control and they had a terrible accident. The truck overturned in a deep gorge and killed everyone sitting on top. At the last minute Evan’s mother threw her baby into to the road. His life was saved but both his legs were crushed. He was the only one who lived. He has been living in him home village with an aunt ever since.
Brother Ambrose reports, “with tear’ed eyes and a deep sense of love and appreciation Evans wants to thank each and everyone of you that keeps the PET ministry alive in Zambia.” Evans told Ambrose, “I will now be able to visit my friends, go to church, and even go to the fields and plant my garden. Through Christ you have shown that love. Don’t stop!”
This man lives where the roads and trails are terrible, and his old wheelchair was totally broken down. Wheelchairs are made for hospital corridors and good sidewalks and did not serve his needs. The thank-you letter, written by a friend says, “His entire family wishes to thank you and all who have in any way facilitated the PET. He is now able to visit friends and relatives and able to go out in the street.”
Mexico: Dorothy Lempke is a retired optician in Jefferson City, MO. She and her husband, Rudy, and a small group of other folks travel to Mexico three times a year to distribute eyeglasses in the villages of Yucatan. They have made 20 trips and distributed around 20,000 pairs of glasses.
On a recent trip Dorothy saw a woman who needed help with mobility. She scoots about on a “skateboard” device. Mrs. Lempke came home determined to get some kind of better mobility for this lady. Once back home she found out about the PET. PET provided the PET. Rudy will disassemble it, and the group will take into Mexico as luggage.
This is typical of how the PET Project works with front line health care workers who can get the PET to those who need it most, and monitor the project.
Uganda: I am Noah Segawa. I am 32 years old. When I was 18, I had polio and I cannot stand or walk. I depended on others to move me around. With the PET I can now move myself for miles without difficulty. Right now I have set up a workshop where I do work of radio and TV technician. I feel glad and so blessed in the name of Jesus Christ for such a wonderful gift from your organization, which I could never afford before.
Vietnam: Cranll phiamg Thao is 18 years old. She acquired polio when she was 2 months old and has never walked. She lives with her mother and an older brother. Her mother sells foods for animals. She heard about Hope Haven (wheelchair refurbisher and distributor), and a friend took her to receive the PET. She is very happy with it and thanks those responsible for it.
Dominican Republic: Marilu Vasquez is 32. She has severe leg problems and requested a PET so that she can attend the university. Her parents are separated, and she lives with a brother. Marilu says to the donors, “¦.a lot of thanks. This is a great blessing. I hope you can keep on doing this because there are many people here that need this. I hope that God will give you good health and long life.”
Alecia Tessenia in Honduras, now 19, had polio when she was eighteen months old. The disease left her with the inability to walk, damage to one of her eyes, and slight damage to one of her arms. She comes from a large and poor family, with ten brothers. She had no way to go to school.
The report said, “It is hard to put into words how excited she was to receive her PET. Her whole body was shaking and she began crying, ‘This PET is going to change my life.’ Her mother was in tears as well.”
Malawi, Africa: Humphrey was in the corner bed of male ward. A good-looking man, high cheekbones, enormous straight white teeth, a broad Malawian smile, he looked out of place there, one out-stretched leg, the other pulled up close to his body.
Humphrey’s young pregnant wife, along with their first-born, a two-year-old girl, stayed all day, seated at his bedside. At night, Mrs. Phiri, his aunt, lay next to his bed on the floor. In mission hospitals, care by nursing staff is limited to medicating patients and sometimes taking care of and dressing wounds. All bedside care is provided by a “guardian” – wife, mother, sister, or aunt – sometimes a neighbor.
Humphrey’s leg wouldn’t heal. The bus accident left him with a gaping hole where the knee ought to be -weeping tissue, contractures of the muscles. The whole mess of a leg was pretty disgusting and discouraging to Humphrey and to Dr. Poehlman — nothing helped.
What seemed like a poorly healing leg was a badly infected body. HIV turned AIDS had its hold on Humphrey.
He didn’t seem to understand what he was up against with his leg and HIV. All that seemed to matter was “going home”.
“That’s truly one happy man,” I repeated to George on that day that the PET provided his transport back to his village, Foster Jere.
It is said among Malawians that one shouldn’t die in a hospital – you know, “the spirit” won’t be able to find you – if you are not home!
Humphrey went home on his PET, to live out his remaining days moving about among family and villagers. Sometimes while sitting on his PET, he watched his pregnant wife, his daughter on her back, working in their small field bringing in the meager maize harvest and wondering if it would be enough. The spirit found Humphrey in April.
Benin, Africa: This young boy touched everyone’s heart at the PET distribution in Porto Novo, Benin, Africa. He is a deaf-mute with a physical disability. He received a small PET and was ecstatic to drive it. He went around bumping into everything, as one would expect small boys to do. He headed off the smooth path and became stuck three or four times in a matter of minutes. But he perfected his driving skills, and from the smile on his face, this boy received the best gift ever.
Benin, Africa: RocWheels made these distributions, and with their computer skills were able to put a daily report on their web site. Go to www.rocwheels.org
With the Porto Novo terrain so hilly and sandy, a normal wheelchair would not be beneficial to people desiring mobility. Recipients with good upper body strength were selected. They became a part of a ceremony, which included representatives from the Mayor’s Office and Minister of Health. Even though the heat of the day caused fatigue with the recipients, they were joyful once departed for home¦with their new GIFT OF MOBILITY.
Mexico: Rudy and Dorothy Lempke of Jefferson City, MO, make about three trips a year to Yucatan with their eyeglass program for the poor. During those trips they had seen Maria Candelaria, of the village of Tixcocob. She scooted around on a flat piece of plywood similar to a large skateboard, because her legs do not function.
They had heard of the PET and contacted the PET Place asking for one. Even though Maria was an adult she was small, and they thought the child size would work better and also be easier to fit in with luggage. With creative carpentry Rudy changed the seat to work well for Maria.
The Lempkes had no problem getting the PET parts into Mexico because they had been making that trip regularly, and had the friendship and the trust of the border guards. The policeman in the area frequented by Maria was delighted with her PET and praised the Lempkes for their work. The local bus promised to put Maria and the PET on the bus and transport them as needed.
Rudy and Dorothy have found two men in Yucatan who need a PET and are arranging a way to get one to them. Folks like the Lempkes are great partners for PET. They know the need and take responsibility for following through.
Honduras: Eight months ago Senor Medina Guevara had his left leg amputated because of diabetes. He was diagnosed with the disease in 1980. He has six children, and had formerly worked as an electrician, but lost that job with his leg.
The Washington (MO) Overseas Mission picked up and shipped the PET. Dr. Raul Ugarte, Jan Long, and Janice Meyer did the distribution.
Three PET production centers have provided PETs for the work in Honduras – Florida, Missouri, and Texas.
Vietnam: The old adage that “one picture is worth a thousand words” clearly fits this photo. This is what PET is all about. Fifty-five year old Nguy En van Ut stepped on a landmine in 1973 and lost both legs. A friend brought him 80 kilometers to get his PET. He will use his PET to sell items from it. He is thrilled with his new mobility and thanks those who made it possible. He lives in Vietnam. Look at that smile.
Brazil: Fatima Longo of Botucatu was born without legs or arms. Her mother abandoned her, and an aunt claimed her. The aunt carried her every place – to school, to church, every place.
Fatima became a teacher and the aunt carried her to school so she could teach. But the aunt has died, and a request came to the PET Project for help for Fatima.
We found that an electric wheelchair adapted to control by her mouth or chin would cost $20,000 plus, and maintenance would be a problem.
If our plans work out, we will send her a “PUSH PET”, which is the standard PET with big wheels, plus a push-bar and a swivel wheel in front where the crank normally goes. Volunteer Jim Weaver makes the swivel wheel for PETs.
Honduras: Noel Santos was five years old when he contracted the debilitating disease polio. It left him with the inability to use his legs. As is the case many times in Honduras, he was, with his infirmity, unable to complete his schooling because of teachers who were not understanding and who taunted children. However, Noel did complete the third grade and is able to read and write well. He was able to obtain a wheelchair, but with the roads prevalent in Honduras, the wheelchair was unable to function.
Now he is 25 years old and has a family, but they are struggling just to provide food for themselves. Noel is truly excited about the gift of the PET because it gives him the opportunity to start a small business as a street vendor. He really wants to be an aid in providing support for his family and with the PET it is now possible.
Noel is shown before he received his PET and afterward.
Honduras: On behalf of the municipality of Pimienta, and Dr. Raul Ugarte, I am writing to thank you for your gift of the PETs. There is an atmosphere of great excitement about those chairs. The doctor is very happy about being able to touch the lives of people who are no longer able to walk, but want the ability to get around.
I helped some men from Pimienta assemble the chairs. Then we looked for and found two people who would most benefit from these chairs. Dr. Raul invited the two newspapers for Honduras and the local television channel to witness and document the gifts of the two PETs. The press seemed very interested in the topic and had suggestions for future distributions of the chairs.
Dr. Raul has many contacts I the country and will definitely be able to locate sufficient numbers of people to fill however many PETs you can send. He has asked me many times how many I think could possibly come. He is thinking he will be able to distribute the PETs over much of the country and is looking forward to working with the PETs in the future.
Enclosed are two histories and photos of the first two PETs. The people who received the PETs thank you from the bottom of their hearts.
(signed) Dr. Paul Ugarte and Aaron Ballou, Pimienta, Cortes
The last newsletter told the story of Sandra Porras, and showed her photo using a walker. Larry Wilcox, PET volunteer, and a VIM work team member discovered Sandra’s need for a PET when they were in Limon, Costa Rica. They came home and shipped a PET.
Jim Weigner, a Costa Rican mission worker who delivered the PET there, wrote, “She is one transformed girl. The mother told me that she has changed and is now an outgoing girl (literally). She goes to the corner store and has a totally new outlook on life.”
Reports like this are typical. A PET not only provides mobility, but it also gives the person a new life – that term is used so much.
Von Driggs, with Mercy Ships in Sierra Leone, talks with a little girl about her PET. She now looks forward to going to school because she has received the Gift of Mobility.
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