This article is redistributed in full and was originally written by Jan Zitek of the Madera Sunrise Rotary Club in Madera, CA.

Gingoog Rotarians with welcome banner.

Gingoog Rotarians with welcome banner.

Our Wheelchair Distribution by Rotary District 5220 began on March 7, 2016 from San Francisco with representatives from the Rotary Clubs of Escalon Sunrise, Madera Sunrise, Manteca, Sonora Sunrise, and Tracy Sunrise plus guests from Indiana, New York, Rotary spouses, and Friends of Rotary. We were joined by our District Governor Ellen Hancock. This is the culmination of much planning and fund raising spearheaded by Bob Bitter and Phil Benner. The wheelchair chairs are provided by The Wheelchair Foundation and a donation of $42,000 by the sponsoring group provides 260 wheelchairs and the shipment to the receiving country. All participants in the distribution team have provided the funds for at least one chair and the remaining funds are provided by other clubs in the district and miscellaneous contributions.

This is our first trip to the Philippines.  We have accompanied chairs to many countries in Central & South America.  Our partner Rotary Club is the Rotary Club of Gingoog, Philippines in District 3870.  It is the responsibility of this club to provide funds for receiving the chairs at the dock in Manila, transportation for the chairs to the distribution sites, coordinating & select-ing the recipients, and hosting the distributing per-sons.  There is a great deal of preplanning on both sides of the world to make this work and months of work and tons of emails exchange hands.  We were fortunate to have the help of two American Rotarians living in Gingoog, Ed Velarde & Luke Tynan, which helped Phil & Bob a whole lot.

The beginning of the distribution ceremony.

The beginning of the distribution ceremony.

Most of us traveled from San Francisco on March 7.  Our first 2 days was supposed to be spent on the island of Virac visiting the water project completed by District 5220.  Alas, for most of us this it was not to be as we arrived only after a hectic trip to the domestic terminal to find that our flight was closed and we were not going to Virac at all because there was not another flight until Friday!   However, the Ari-ans, Nazs, Dr. Simjee, & Dr. Muslim had arrived on a different flight and were on their way to Virac so we were represented.  Disappointed we transferred to the Remington Hotel which was recommended by the So-rianos for 2 extra nights in Manila.  We arranged with a local Past District Governor to send the school and craft supplies and medical equipment we had brought to Virac.  Disappointed we decided to make the most of our unplanned visit and went to the Oceanarium for the afternoon.  We learned a lot about the sea life and fresh water fish of the islands and got acclimated to the very humid and hot weather.  We learned quickly that you do not measure travel by distance but by the time it takes to get someplace.  For instance, the aquarium was approximately 8 kilometers from our hotel but the travel time was 40-45 minutes.

Back to the airport and we are finally united with our entire group and off to our destination of Gingoog City, Mindanao Island.  Of course, our flight was delayed.  Cebu Pacific was not our favorite airline at this point.  We were greeted with a large banner and very happy Rotarians who were waiting for us!  Pictures were taken and we board-ed vans for the 35 kilometer drive or 1 ½ hour drive to Gingoog City which was to be our home for the next 6 nights.  There is no language barrier as English is taught to all and there are several Americans in the local Rotary club.  There is a designated national dialect but there are 70-80 regional dialects so English is actually the language that most use when conversing with people from other areas.  Our first stop is at the City Building for a reception hosted by the Mayor Marie.  We are served snacks and welcomed by the officials and more Rotarians.  From there we are whisked away to a welcome dinner hosted by the Gingoog Bay Rotary Club which is composed mostly of women.  It is very festive and they are delighted we have arrived.  Our first meal and we are served a whole roasted pig.  We are very impressed.   After dinner and welcoming speeches we are whisked to our hotel which is circa 1950’s but very clean and air conditioned.

Medina Mayor Ken Nino T. Uyguangco welcome banner.

Medina Mayor Ken Nino T. Uyguangco welcome banner.

The next morning we board our vans to go to the warehouse where 260 wheelchairs are stored.  Twenty chairs were shipped to a city 4 hours away for distribution later in our visit.  We are going to assemble all 260 chairs this morning. We have never assembled the chairs prior to the distribution before so a new experience.  The Rotary Clubs have enlisted the help of 30 young, good looking Army and Police cadets to help with assembling.  Nathan has arranged for a compressor to air the tires as these chairs have bicycle tires!   It is very hot & humid for us but very soon the chairs are being assembled and arranged by size in the room next door.  By noon we have completed the project and 3 truckloads of chairs are on their way to the distribution sites.  A quick lunch and we are off to do what we are here for give away the chairs.

A group of 15 go to Magsaysay for distribution which is on one side of the island.  There are greeted by a town celebration when they arrive.  Social Services and the Gingoog Bay Club have done a great job of organizing the distribution.  Each chair has a small stuffed toy in it.  Many of the people have never been in this situation and are quite nervous so the animals give them a little security.  The animals are donated by the Mountain Bear Service.  The rest of us go to Talisayan where we are greeted by the Mayor of that community and a huge party.  Here we see the very real need and reaffirm the reason we are here.   There are a number of amputees which are carried in by families.  The children who have never been able to walk now will have an opportunity to go places.  They arrive by bus, motorcycle, tricycles (a homemade contraption powered by a bicycle or scooter) or by foot being carried by a family member.  There is much ceremony and we are very honored guests.    We help put the patients in the chairs, give instructions on how to use the chair, and watch the smiles and the tears of appreciation.  We hear the stories of those who have been bed ridden for years, the blind child who has been carried everywhere as he has no use of his legs as well.  This is why we are here!   The families cannot believe that their dream for mobility for their loved ones has been received.  From the distribution we are taken to a lovely beach restaurant where we are hosted by the local government dignitaries.  There have been very few tourists or outside aid groups in this area so they are very appreciative.   Our Rotary hosts are also very happy.   We are learning how much effort they have put into this as they have never have done this before and they have done a great job.

Kya adding stuffed animals to the wheelchairs.

Kya adding stuffed animals to the wheelchairs.

Our next distribution is in Medina which is a small town nearby.  Again, the festivities and the smiles and tears of the happy recipients are testimony to the gift of mobility.  We are entertained again at a beautiful beach with a great lunch.    We meet most of the local political officials as this is election year.  The mayors seem very young to us and we learn that this is the first step on the political ladder for most.  We do a lot of hands on and provide a good look at Americans for these people.   They learn we are real people not just the politicians they see on TV.

We have a free day and we are treated to a visit to Tiklas Falls.  This is just one of many water falls in the area.  We then visit a public school and especially, the Special Ed classes.   There is much need and it is amazing how much these teachers do with so little.  Again, we have had a very busy day.   We have entertainment tonight at a local college where the students have prepared a program of the music and dance of the islands through the years.  We have our first experience with a “brown out” and we are quickly taken back to our hotel.  The electrical system is very old and overworked so we are told that often power is out for anywhere from a few minutes to a day.  They are also concerned about terrorists striking their power grid.  We have security everywhere we go and we feel very safe.

Today is our largest distribution in Gingoog City.  We are going to give away 85 chairs today.  We are in a gymnasium much like the one at Madera High.  Again the Mayor arrives and then the distribution begins.  Chairs are assigned and checked to make sure they are the right size.  Again the animals are a bright spot.  I forgot to mention that we had lap quilts which members of the Madera Quilt Guild provided for some of the recipients.  This one goes very smoothly.  We all have our assigned duties and also help where needed and of course, have lots of pictures taken.  It is hard for us to imagine what it must be like to be deprived of mobility because there are no funds to provide chairs.

Our final distribution is in a small town about an hour from Cagyon de Oro which is a 4 hour bus ride for us but well worth the visit. Here we meet the Governor of this island.  We are very impressed.  He appears to be very concerned and hands on with the people and they love him.  He serves as our translator because it is a very different dialect and it seems many do not speak English.  These people are extremely poor and very needy but so very happy!

We leave the island of Mindanao with a happy heart!

20160212_235629In February of this year, Rotarians from Western North Carolina, District 7670, traveled to the Philippines to deliver wheelchairs and other aid to the disabled and less fortunate Filipino citizens with Districts 3820 and 3810. District 3810 consists of clubs from Manila, Pasay, Cavite and Occidental Mindoro and District 3820 consists of clubs from the Southeastern Quezon, Mindoro Oriental and Camarines.

The five Rotarians from District 7670 (Bill Biddle, Isaac Owolabi, Elbie Stiles, Charles “Chuck” Killian and his wife Sharon) all travelled together, each paying his or her own expenses, to participate in this life-changing experience. One hundred ten wheelchairs were distributed in six cities within the two hosting districts.

Philippines Wheelchair Team in Daet, Camerines Sur, Philippines Feb 2016

Philippines Wheelchair Team in Daet, Camerines Sur, Philippines Feb 2016

The team also participated in a medical mission for indigent senior citizens, visited a High School in Pasay City to see desks that were donated to the senior class, visited Blessed Ville Angels Special Education Learning Center and a Music Therapy Program in Tondo in District 3810.

“We are grateful to have had the opportunity to represent our district and to serve others in need. As a team, we were able to have a positive impact on the lives of individuals who are now better off. Thank you for the opportunity to serve others.”

Josh Burroughs began his legacy of supporting Wheelchair Foundation in his college days at Cal Poly State University in San Luis Obispo, California.  In August of 2008, Josh was a team leader among a group of students who traveled to Peru to distribute 400 wheelchairs.  The students purchased these 400 wheelchairs through a year’s worth of work as a class project.  Josh was totally overwhelmed by the powerful, life-changing experience of placing someone in a wheelchair, and from that point on, committed to continuing this wonderful work.

In 2014, Josh along with the Silicon Valley Rotary Club visited Nicaragua for a wheelchair distribution. This was in partnership with Los Pipitos and the Wheelock Family. Included the installation of new bathrooms, a new potable water system and purchase of educational supplies for the Las Iguanas School for low income children.

Take a moment and watch this touching video that Wheelchair Foundation just received. Thank you Josh, Silicon Valley Rotary Clubs and all of our wonderful supporters!

Below is the press release regarding the Rotary Club of Dickson and their donation of wheelchairs to the Mid-Cumberland Human Resource Agency.



FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASEFor further information contact:
11.6.14Dale Qualls at 615.446.8939

Good Morning Rotary Donate Wheelchairs

(DICKSON) – The Good Morning Rotary Club of Dickson recently acquired four wheelchairs from the Wheelchair Foundation to donate to Mid-Cumberland Human Resource Agency.

The Wheelchair Foundation is a nonprofit organization leading an international effort to create awareness of the needs and abilities of people with physical disabilities, to promote the joy of giving, create global friendship, and to deliver a wheelchair to children, teens and/or adults in the world who need one, but cannot, on their own afford one. For these people, the Wheelchair Foundation delivers Hope, Mobility, and Freedom.

wheelchairs 021The Good Morning Rotary Club has 28 members made up of business leaders and individuals in our community that are interested in the “Service Above Self” premise. The club was chartered in May 1958 and upholds the motto:  “Doing Good in Dickson County and in the World”.  This is the first year that the Good Morning Rotary Club has participated in a wheelchair project. The idea of donating wheelchairs was presented to the Board by Whitney Qualls. One of Whitney’s goals to one day accompany her fellow Rotarians and distribute a container of wheelchairs to the country of Guatemala. Guatemala has the world’s highest rate of Spina Bifida.

The Good Morning Rotary Club, under President Debbie Barber, is passionate about partnering with Club Rotario Guatemala del Este www.rotaryeast.org/en/  to provide mobility and independence to its citizens but the need for mobility is also seen in our own community.  With this donation of wheelchairs, the Club wishes to begin a tradition of providing wheelchairs to those who may not be able to afford or acquire needed means of mobility.  It is our hope you will join us in this effort to encourage mobility and independence to those that need our help.

The Good Morning Rotary Club selected Mid-Cumberland Human Resource Agency as the recipient of these wheelchairs. Mid-Cumberland will distribute these mobility devices to elderly or disabled clients in Dickson County through the Homemaker program.

Mid-Cumberland, a non-profit organization celebrating 40 years of providing essential services to residents of Dickson County as well as 12 additional counties in Middle Tennessee, has remained true to its mission since 1974: “to help people help themselves by providing knowledge and resources to improve the quality of life in the Mid-Cumberland Region”.

The Homemaker program provides essential in-home services to elderly and disabled individuals who have been abused, neglected, exploited, or are at imminent risk of such abuse, neglect, or exploitation.

Statistics have shown that every 5 seconds an elderly individual is abused with 1 in 9 elderly individuals reporting they have been a victim of abuse. As a result there are as many as 1,044 victims in Dickson County. While many people are surprised by the high prevalence of elder abuse, what is more shocking is that only 1 out of 23 victims will report abuse, neglect, and exploitation to authorities. Even more disheartening is that it is estimated 90% of abuse cases that are reported are perpetrated by a family member. This is the reason the Homemaker Program exists. Mid-Cumberland’s Homemaker Program is the only agency providing essential in-home services to those referred by Adult Protective Services.  The Program is funded in part by Tennessee Department of Human Services, United Way, local city and county governments, and private contributions.

wheelchairs 020Mid-Cumberland Human Resource Agency established the Homemaker Program to serve and protect residents in the community who are vulnerable to abuse, neglect, and exploitation and are pleased to report they successfully enable over 92% of clients to remain safe, independent, and free of abuse, neglect, or exploitation. Unfortunately, there is still a waiting list for these essential services.

If you would like to make a financial contribution or provide comfort items for clients within Mid-Cumberland Human Resource Agency’s Homemaker Program, you can contact them by phone or mail. All donations are tax deductible. A referral can be made for Homemaker services for someone you know by calling 850-3909 (toll free 1-866-707-8791) or you may visit www.mchra.com to fill out an available form. If you believe an adult you know is being abused, neglected, or exploited please report this to Adult Protective Services at 1-888-277-8366.

The Good Morning Rotary Club meets Thursdays at 7 am at Shoney’s and welcomes anyone interested in learning more about how to help with this or other projects to join them for breakfast on a Thursday morning.

To learn more about the Wheelchair Foundation visit www.wheelchairfoundation.org. If anyone is interested in providing wheelchairs to Mid-Cumberland or Guatemala send donations to: Wheelchair Project, Good Morning Rotary Club, P.O. Box 1216, Dickson, TN 37056.

Josh Burroughs in Shanghai, China, at the official handover of wheelchairs sponsored by his Rotary club, the Rotary Club of San Jose, California, for the 2010 World Expo.

Josh Burroughs in Shanghai, China, at the
official handover of wheelchairs sponsored by his Rotary club, the Rotary Club of San Jose, California, for the 2010 World Expo.

Josh Burroughs began his legacy of supporting Wheelchair Foundation in his college days at Cal Poly State University in San Luis Obispo, California.  In August of 2008, Josh was a team leader among a group of students who traveled to Peru to distribute 400 wheelchairs.  The students purchased these 400 wheelchairs through a year’s worth of work as a class project.  Josh was totally overwhelmed by the powerful, life-changing experience of placing someone in a wheelchair, and from that point on, committed to continuing this wonderful work.

In the fall of 2009, Josh again traveled with Dr. Lynn Metcalfe, Professor of Marketing and humanitarian, and fellow students whom she had challenged, guided and encouraged to become philanthropic. This time they flew to Oaxaca, Mexico, to deliver 400 more wheelchairs they had purchased.

Following graduation from Cal Poly, and still smitten by his desire to make a difference in the world, Josh joined the Rotary Club of San Jose, California, and began a career with Barry Swenson Builders. Through his business and Rotary connections, Josh has helped fund and organize distributions in Shanghai, China, and Bangladesh, where Josh and fellow Rotarians visited community centers, hospitals and homes to deliver the gifts of hope and mobility directly to recipients.

Josh in Oaxaca, Mexico, as a Cal Poly student.

Josh in Oaxaca, Mexico, as a Cal Poly student.

This spring, San Jose Rotarians and Wine for Wheels worked in partnership with the Forever Love Foundation and the Department of Social Development and Welfare to arrange wheelchair distributions in Chiang Mai, Bangkok and Chon Buri Provinces in Thailand. Ceremonies were held at rehabilitation centers, a veteran’s hospital, individual homes and a home for the disabled. These home deliveries were especially emotional, allowing the Rotarians to witness first-hand how wheelchairs would help the recipient and family members around their home.

Josh is back to work, championing a new project to send wheelchairs to Croatia. He is a shining example of the philanthropic spirit of a new generation and of how just one person can make a huge difference in the world by helping others and changing lives.