Wheelchair 1We began our wheelchair adventure on Friday afternoon February 8th where we were picked up from the airport by several Rotarians from the Tegucigalpa Rotary Club. They drove us in several vehicles to visit the warehouse where the wheelchairs were being stored. We were then transported to Hotel Honduras Maya where we were able to check in, unpack and unwind for an hour.
Several of our new found Rotary brothers then brought us to a very Honduran traditional restaurant where we dined and all got better acquainted. In attendance were about 12 Rotarians, some with spouses and even a grandfather and granddaughter. There were about 25 of us in total. Little did I know that we would become so close to many of these people by the end of our trip.
At 7:30 the next morning, we were transported to the Tegucigalpa Rotary Club headquarters to assemble and distribute two truckloads of wheelchairs to very young children on up to the very elderly. The day started off a little chaotic with lots of hands with no real direction. After a while, we all settled into the activity of assembly, tire filling, people fitting and picture taking. By about 12:30 we had successfully placed all the people who were there that morning to receive their wheelchairs.Wheelchair 2
We then loaded up several pickup trucks with boxed wheelchairs and proceeded to deliver them to three area hospitals. Our first stop was Hospital San Felipe. Over 100 years old, this hospital is an enormous one story series of structures in very bad repair. We assembled about 20 wheel chairs and presented them to the administrator who then gave us a tour. There were exposed wires and disrepair evident everywhere. Of note, this hospital was closed due to lack of funds a few years ago and brought back to life thanks to the efforts of the Rotary clubs in the city. As bad as it was physically, it serves the people in great need in Tegucigalpa.
Our next stop was the Hospital School where we assembled and delivered about 10 wheelchairs and a few of the Rotarians stayed for a tour. The rest of us proceeded on to The Sisters of Mercy hospital to deliver another 10 wheelchairs. This is the order that was created by Mother Theresa from Calcutta. We met the Sister that ran the facility who was also from Calcutta and assembled the wheelchairs outside the facility. We then brought them into a large room occupied by about 20 patients. These poor souls aged from about 12 to over 90 were all very severely mentally impaired. Our hearts were very touch by these most unfortunate people. We then placed two elderly ladies in wheel chairs and by then there were very few dry eyes in the room. This by far, for me, was the most difficult and rewarding part of our mission.Wheelchair 3
After a quick stop at our hotel to freshen up, we were picked up by our now good Rotary friends and driven to the house of the Tegucigalpa Rotary President, Fidel de Velasquez and his lovely wife Ines. We were escorted up four floors to their roof top where we were treated to a beautiful paella dinner under the stars. In attendance were all our new Rotary friends and their families. Mr. de Velasquez gave a very heartwarming speech and several of us followed suit. We were then all called up to receive award certificates and Tegucigalpa Rotary banners.
Sunday morning, after a well needed night’s sleep, we went back to the Club headquarters and assembled and distributed more wheelchairs. By this time, we were all expert in wheel chair assembly.
While conversing with the mother of a young boy who we had just placed in a chair, I discovered that he would be able to walk with a surgical procedure that was unfortunately not possible due to the expense and the family financial condition. His mother was hoping that we could help her with the expense of the surgery. After several minutes of speaking to her through an interpreter and networking with the other Rotarians, we were able to arrange for little Armando to be a candidate for his needed surgery to be performed by a surgical team mission that would be coming to Tegucigalpa next January. More tears and a very nice embrace and kiss from a very grateful mother.
Shortly after this “Rotary miracle” we left for the airport. We were accompanied by several of our new Rotary brothers and President Fidel all the way to the security check point. More tears and hugs.Wheelchair 4
The dollars we all gave to purchase these wheelchairs didn’t just provide better mobility to those in need, they changed lives and created at least one miracle I can attest to and most assuredly many more.
Bob Lombardo
Proud Rotarian