Friday, February 27, 2009

Changing Lives in Mexico!

Wow, going to Mexico was amazing! It reminded me how much I miss developing countries - the people, the landscape, the food, the way of life. You realize how much we really can do without here in America, and was a sobering reminder for me to be grateful for what I have (and have accomplished) because of where I live.
Mexico is only about an hour and a half drive from where I live, but due to the government strife in Mexico and my disability, I haven't ventured there on my own since moving here in 2005 - but have very much wanted to go. I was very excited, needless to say, about this opportunity to not only visit, but to also go with a purpose! I went with my co-workers at Free Wheelchair Mission to help distribute free wheelchairs to the poorest of the poor in Rosarito, Mexico. It definitely helps make my job that much more exciting!

Heading down to Mexico, you are greeted with a friendly sign letting you know the International Border is coming up.

It progressively gets worse, though, and the big warning that you are now heading to Mexico means there is no returning back to the US!! Aaah!
The international border contains a strenuous control check on the other side if you're coming back into the US, but heading into Mexico, there's not much concern for anything (although they do have the Mexican military in full force at the check point). We did, however, get asked to pull over to get searched, but their search consisted of tapping one side of the van we were in about 3 times with the palm of their hand and then waved on that that was it. LOL!
My first time in Tijuana, Mexico! You can see the big Mexican flag that greets you as well as the traffic trying to head back into the US.
We missed the turn to Rosarito (which happens really soon after entering the country) due to my excitement of trying to see it all, take pictures, and be the navigator of directions. So, we ended up wandering through parts of downtown Tijuana that were, well, rather interesting. Behind us, a huge combat vehicle (which I didn't get a picture of) filled with armed military personnel followed us for quite some time. (They weren't following us, they just happened to be behind us.) One of the signs you're in a developing country when you see armed military carrying machine guns!

Heading down the coast was beautiful. The ocean is a clear blue, and even the air doesn't seem so full of smog. The houses are modest (mixed with shacks and huts every now and then), and upon entering into Rosarito, there are several large condo and resort complexes being built. Obviously for foreigners! A huge statue of Jesus even welcomes you further down the coast!

We arrived in Rosarito, Mexico and began assembling the wheelchairs at City Hall. The Secretary General (who is next in line to the Mayor), Javier Hernandez Tovalin, was with us to help distribute them. It was a beautiful day for assembling! We even had helpers from the local Drug Rehab facility getting community service hours. Upon translation, they were very happy to help us because they wanted to show others that just because they are have tatooes all over their body doesn't mean they are "hoodlums." They were very so helpful and well appreciated!
We were able to deliver three wheelchairs. The first was a man who was 104 years old! He was bit by a snake a year ago and lost his leg. He's been stuck in his house ever since. He will now be able to use the wheelchair to get around independently! Can you believe he's 104 years old? He doesn't look it at all! (When questioning his age, he proudly pulled out his ID card to prove it!)

The second recipient of a wheelchair was in another part of town. She hadn't been out of her house in a very long time, either, and now she can breathe fresh air and feel the sunshine on her face! A co-worker of mine took her first walk. How awesome!



The third recipient was in a newer part of town, but very complicated to get to. He was a 40 year old man who had been hit by a taxi driver. Trying to get into his house was very tough for me (trenches, broken glass, and narrow opening). The house was two rooms: a kitchen and bedroom. Wooden walls and a dirt floor. Javier Tovalin, Secretary General of Rosarito, accompanied us on each distribution and encouraged each receipient.




We were all very tired after such a long day and were looking forward to a good meal. We ate at a local restuarant which was famous for it's lobster. The owner of the resaurant was so excited to have us there (we were the only people in the restaurant). He served us great food that included chips, fresh salsa, carne asada, fresh lobster, and then.... snails. I was encouraged to try them. In highschool, it was a big deal to get "escargo" when you went to Prom. I guess this showed that you could afford ''high society" delicacies. I never cared or wanted to eat snails, but was coaxed to try them at this restaurant. I was not pleased by their taste at all as you can see from the video! That's the owner of the restaurant handing me a napkin to spit it out in in the video! I didn't want to be rude (although I did want to spit it out), so I just swallowed it.


No authentic Mexican meal would be complete without a serende!




After such an event filled day, we all piled back into the van and drove back to Orange County, California. We sat in line waiting to get back into the US for over an hour upon which we were greeted by many peddlers trying to sell their wares. It was quite funny to see how low we could get them to go!

I am thankful for the opportunity to help give wheelchairs to those in desepate need. It is so important that basic needs are met for people all around the world (food, water, shelter), but I also feel that a wheelchair (or other type of mobility aide) is necessary, too. People should not be forced to stay in their homes, crawl on the ground, or be disgarded by society as less-than because they are disabled. There are so many people out there who need wheelchairs and who's lives are dramatically changed by one simple gift. For more information on how to support giving a wheelchair to someone in a developing country, please visit the Free Wheelchair Mission's website. $51.29 can change someone's life forever!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Mexico-Bound!

I'm headed to Mexico tomorrow to deliver wheelchairs to the poorest of the poor who have no way to be mobile. This will be my first distribution trip, and I am utterly excited! It's amazing to me that I'll be able to give the transformative gift of a wheelchair to someone who has otherwise been left to crawl on the ground, sit in a back room, or be carried by a family member. Please be praying for our safety tomorrow as there are a lot of issues in Mexico right now. Most importantly, pray that lives are changed and that they see Jesus in all of us!!

Monday, February 2, 2009

Meeting Gold Medalist and Paralympian, Josh George!



This weekend, I was involved in the Surf City Marathon in Huntington Beach - not as a racer, but as a spectator. For the past four years, Free Wheelchair Mission has been the featured philanthropy for the Marathon, otherwise known as "Run for Mobility." I had the unique privilage to meet gold medalist Paralympian Josh George this weekend (above). What a fantastic, down to earth individual. It was fantastic to spend time with him and hear his story. You can visit his website at www.joshsgeorge.com. The entire weekend, we raised over $308,000 which means that over 6,000 new people will be receiving a new wheelchair!!! Halleluigh!!!