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Rotary District 5170 and Wheelchair Foundation Deliver 560 Wheelchairs in Monterey, Mexico

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. 

Josh Burroughs Monterey Mexico

Josh and members of the Rotary Districts 5160, 5170, 7090 and 5730 in Monterey Mexico during the delivery of 560 wheelchairs.

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.

Wheelchair recipients in Monterey MexicoThis 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!

Wheelchairs lined up for deliveryCheck 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!

-Josh Burroughs

Chair, Silicon Valley Chapter of the Wheelchair Foundation

Wheelchair Ambassador, Rotary Club of San Jose

Nicaragua Wheelchair Distribution 2014

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!

The Fantastic Mr. Josh Burroughs

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.