This story was written by Josh Burroughs Chair, Silicon Valley Chapter of the Wheelchair Foundation, Wheelchair Ambassador, Rotary Club of San Jose
Gandhi said it best: “the best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”
I can’t think of a better way to describe the feelings felt on our immersive wheelchair distribution in Monterrey, Mexico, a joint venture between the Rotary District 5170 (Bay Area) and the Silicon Valley Chapter of the Wheelchair Foundation.
I had the honor of serving on this mission trip delivering 560 wheelchairs and participating in hands on service projects with our local Rotarian partners. This life changing experience (now my 8th wheelchair distribution to date) continues to affect me as a constant reminder of the many blessings we have here in the states, and our obligation to reach outside comfort zones to share our gifts of time, talent and treasure with others.
What was equally inspiring was the sheer generosity of our donors towards this project. In less than 8 months, starting with a modest challenge grant from the Silicon Valley Chapter and Rotary 5170 District Governor Susan Valenta, the campaign caught on like wildfire throughout the Bay Area Rotary Clubs – a huge outpouring of support from individuals, businesses, and foundations. The fundraising campaign culminated with a grand reception at the Blackhawk Museum in Danville, where individual donors had a chance to meet Wheelchair Foundation founder, Ken Behring, who gave an inspiring speech in thanks for the continued support of Rotary International over the past 15 years.
This tangible gift of mobility and its life changing impacts were sourced locally, and distributed globally, but the effects on the lives of the recipients can only be briefly documented through my experience delivering the chairs. The true impact will be lifelong, and one in which entire family units are transformed.
Led by Rotary International Director Brad Howard, Rotary District 5170 Governor Susan Valenta, and District 5170 Governor Elect Jeff Orth, our 20 person team landed in Monterrey in April, 2016. Building on a decade long partnership with the Monterrey Rotarians, the team divided into groups to serve the local communities.
I personally participated in the renovation of the children’s library in Garcia, Nuevo Leon; swinging sledge hammers, painting, landscaping – the kids helped us out too, but they got more paint on themselves that on the walls!
The primarily industrial city (think packaging and manufacturing of Mary Kay products, Kia Motors, etc) has an ever-increasing influx of migrants looking for work. Very poor areas dealing with issues surrounding homelessness and housing juxtaposes an increased amount of new commercial development & construction in the downtown core.
Amid this changing landscape are the diverse stories of the individuals receiving mobility. From children to adults, from birth defects to car accidents, the stories highlight the need for us to continue on this mission, and this is only the beginning!
Check back soon for a follow-up article on our 2nd Mission trip to Panama in October 2016 where we will be delivering another 560 wheelchairs in this Central American outpost.
…and Thank You again for all your support!
Chair, Silicon Valley Chapter of the Wheelchair Foundation
Wheelchair Ambassador, Rotary Club of San Jose