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Rotary - Monterrey MX 2020

In the last week of February, earlier this year, we returned to Monterrey, Mexico, for a wheelchair distribution and other “hands-on” community service.  On Friday, we painted a Senior Center for Alzheimer’s patients (“celery white” was the color they chose), planted five trees, and presented three people with wheelchairs. One of them was a polio survivor, which made the day even more powerful.  Because of the efforts of Rotary, and the Gates Foundation, we don’t really see any young people with polio anymore, and most people today don’t realize how devastating disease this was a half-century ago.

Along with about 20 other Rotarians from Northern California, we interacted with Rotarians from many of the Monterrey area’s 18 Rotary Clubs.  Their hospitality is legendary and it was so fun to look at their projects and enjoy Members Night Out dinners (including a restaurant known for its goat or “Cabrito” dishes) as we continue the “Amigos Para Siempre”, “Friends Forever” philosophy we adopted 17-years-ago with the Monterrey Rotarians.  It has been so rewarding for us to partner on so many projects.

Behring Family in AfricaDear Friends,

In these uncertain and frightening times, we hope and pray that this message finds you and your families safe and healthy.  Wheelchair Foundation’s offices are closed in alignment with local, State, and Federal guidelines during the Covid-19 crisis.   Our employees are still available to answer your questions and your emails, as well as process donations, manage logistics and, along with our global volunteers and partners, make sure that our wheelchairs are still getting delivered domestically and in countries across the globe.

“Shelter in Place” and “Social Distancing” have become part of our shared 2020 experience.  While the necessity for our social isolation will hopefully dissipate within the next few months, we know that social isolation is a way of life for many physically disabled people throughout the world.  Unable to move about at their own free will, or able to do so with difficulty, and a feeling of being trapped within their environment, the plight of some of the world’s disabled begins to seem familiar.

Our primary mission over the last two decades has been providing wheelchairs to those without access to them, and to create awareness about the needs and abilities of people with physical disabilities.  My father, Ken Behring – Founder of Wheelchair Foundation, worked tirelessly to promote global friendship.  Now, more than ever, we need the world’s scientists, doctors, health experts, and political leaders to work together in friendship to find solutions.

Please stay safe and be healthy!  While we all isolate, social distance, and shelter in place, take a moment to remember those who live lives in isolation every day.  Thank you for your continuing support.

 

 

 

David E. Behring
President

The following story was written by Jody Morgan of Alamo Today & Danville Today News. The original article can be found here.

The Wheelchair Foundation recently completed a third distribution trip to Vietnam with several members of the Viet Nam Veterans of Diablo Valley (VNVDV) taking the opportunity to return for the first time to places where they served during the Vietnam War. The mission brought the gift of mobility to 500 individuals of all ages and renewed hope to their caregivers and families. The journey enabled veterans to deliver tangible measures of good to a country where they once were tasked with disseminating destruction.

Dennis Giacovelli served in the Mekong Delta region in 1970 on Navy gunboats called PBR and STABs. During a reunion with his boat group, he described his plans to go back to Vietnam with the Wheelchair Foundation. He reports, “Their reaction was of surprise, shock, and disbelief that I would even consider returning.” Their response dampened his enthusiasm, but prior to embarking he says, “Hopefully, I will see this as a wonderful vacation with a heavy dose of giving back to those in need. I am sure the idea that we were the ones who caused these ailments and that the wheelchairs are a ‘drop in the bucket’ will be ever-present.”

Gary Pforr served in the Northern I Corps 1969, 1970, and 1971. Before leaving on the Wheelchair Foundation trip, he comments, “Despite my apprehension about seeing old places, it’s kind of a compulsive desire. Veterans’ and civilians’ memories of those times and places and events are not healed or closed – they’re managed.”

Joe Calloway’s 2004 book Mekong First Light describes coming of age in the process of going from Private to Captain in three years and serving as an infantry platoon leader in Vietnam, Queens Cobra advisor to two Thai Infantry companies, and in the 5th Special Forces Base Camp Defense and Special Projects. Asked what motivated him to travel back with the Wheelchair Foundation, he writes, “Doing something constructive and helpful for a country where we did so much damage is why I’m going. Healing and closure is a myth… going there is not going to eliminate the horrible experiences and memories.”

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David Behring talks with Vietnamese orphanage teacher fluent in English.
She was disabled as a child. Photo courtesy of Wheelchair Foundation.

Enthusiastic accounts by VNVDV members who traveled on previous Wheelchair Foundation Vietnam tours encouraged members to overcome their misgivings. Jerry Yahiro, VNVDV Past-President, spoke in a 2015 the positive effect of going back twice on wheelchair distribution trips. “Prior to 2006 and 2012, about every day something would remind me of Vietnam. Now, I can go days without thinking about Vietnam, however, it is still there.” He noted, “The Vietnamese have accommodated better. To them, it was a war of independence. They differentiate individuals from politics.”

Wheelchair Foundation President David Behring orchestrated the trip to alternate wheelchair distributions with orphanage visits, provide time to revisit historic sites, and leave free time for relaxation. The itinerary included a dinner that brought veterans from opposing sides together in an evening of harmonious exchanges of times remembered and events graciously dismissed. Although some of the 500 wheelchairs went to remote locations, the impact of giving 160 wheelchairs a day to grateful recipients unable to afford the means of moving about independently proved to be one of the most rewarding aspects of the journey for returning veterans as well as others in the group who did not serve in Vietnam.

Jon Robbins, who served in Vietnam in the Northern II Corps from August 1968-August 1969, was interested in seeing the country’s development in the last 50 years. He remarks, “You never learn unless you get into the people and their lives today.” The trip gave him a chance to learn directly from the staff at the orphanages visited their tremendous dedication and witness the lifestyle of the children they serve. He was greatly moved by the genuine gratitude expressed by wheelchair recipients as well as residents and staff at the orphanages.

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Jon Robbins with orphans in Hue City. Photo courtesy of Jon Robbins.

Jon writes, “In the City of Hue, at the Chuong Trinh orphanage, wheelchairs were distributed. On arrival, I met some young children who greeted me with their wonderful smiles. They sang and danced in a simple performance that was so rewarding to me. Later their stories were told. These children have received a new direction in life, and they show their gratitude without saying a word.”

The orphanages visited are all privately funded with no government support. Gary explains, “The 30-50 children located at the Children’s Shelter in Hue receive training to enable them to achieve self-sufficiency. The shelter is supported by the Friends of Hue Foundation, based in San Jose. Approximately 30-40 abandoned children living in the Ha Cau Orphanage in Hanoi attend public schooling during the day and are nurtured by 74-year-old Mrs. Tran Thuc Ninh, who is assisted by four dedicated caregivers.”

To the query on what he found most rewarding about the journey, Pforr responds, “Seeing the positive changes in a country that was once devastated by war was most rewarding to me as a Vietnam vet. Where undernourished grim-faced peasants in black pajamas once tilled their fields with water buffalo, healthy and vibrant hard-working people dressed in western attire are now engaged in mechanized agriculture as well as in a variety of commercial and industrial livelihoods. Red soil moonscape areas near the DMZ that were once pock-marked with shell holes are now under heavy agriculture.”

Calloway sees Saigon, now called Ho Chi Minh City, as “a vibrant dynamic society teeming with vigor and resourcefulness.” The people are youthful. Seventy percent of the country’s population was born after the war. Perhaps that accounts for their willingness to welcome the group of Americans. Joe explains, “It is incredible how these people have forgiven us for killing three million of its citizens, poisoning millions more, and then they just moved on with life. They seem to harbor no ill will or animosity whatsoever.” Joe, however, finds photographs of deformed infants with birth defects caused by the Agent Orange defoliant disbursed by American combatants an unforgettable reminder that damage done to the landscape continued to impact the people of Vietnam long after the war ended.

“It was a very sad and humbling experience. Many of these children are disabled they believe due to Agent Orange still left in the ground,” Calloway concludes concerning the first wheelchair distribution. Mothers brought children from remote locations. He estimates 500 people gathered to clap and cheer. The American contingent pushed each of the 160 wheelchair recipients individually out of the building. Pforr adds, “Despite Viet Nam’s widespread economic development and improved standard of living for most, it’s evident that many physically and mentally disabled persons, along with their parental caregivers, have been left behind and live in poverty.”

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Josh Routh (center) at Ha Cau Orphanage in Hanoi. Photo courtesy of Gary Pforr.

Veteran Wheelchair Foundation travelers Don and Josh Routh had never been to Vietnam. Born with Cerebral Palsy, Josh enjoys demonstrating how empowering a wheelchair can be. His father Don encourages parents of differentially-abled children, recounting how his perseverance enabled Josh to become an independent, highly productive adult rather than the quadriplegic incapable of speech his doctors originally envisioned. Impressed by reactions of Vietnam veterans to their first wheelchair distributions and orphanage visits, Don especially enjoyed witnessing their encounter with former enemies in Hue where some of the bloodiest fighting occurred during the 1968 Tet Offensive. “The dinner with Viet Cong Veterans was a surreal experience. It didn’t take long for barriers to break down and veterans from both sides to embrace a common theme of peace and fellowship.”

Calloway admits boundless beer consumption helped cement “deep-seated camaraderie and mutual respect” as the evening progressed. “It was indeed an inspirational and truly bonding experience for guys who were some 50 years ago trying to kill one another. There were no harbored grievances, angst, or hostility.” He continues, “I watched, engulfed in an event of overwhelming goodwill. Who would have thought this would evolve into such a raucous gathering of former enemies?”

Summing up the benefits of the journey, Joe writes, “Returning to a place where I brought so much destruction, structural and human damage, and then being able to participate 50 plus years later in events so positive with a group of admirable people so deep in compassion and character was truly inspirational and emotionally rewarding. A true field soldier will never find closure as combat life is too brutally mean-spirited and tragic, but one can find some relief in this mission as I did.”

For information about the Wheelchair Foundation, visit www.wheelchairfoundation.org. To learn more about the Viet Nam Veterans of Diablo Valley, visit www.vnvdv.org.

Jeff and David BehringDear Friends,

As many of you are probably aware, we sadly lost the founder and visionary of the Wheelchair Foundation, Ken Behring, in late June. My father launched the Foundation nineteen years ago in order to provide mobility to people across the globe. He met with countless world leaders to enlist their support in helping the physically disabled in their countries. Ken was largely responsible for making it possible for over 1,100,000 people to receive the special gift of a wheelchair.

My brother Jeff and I accompanied our father on many distribution trips and were always inspired by his compassion and dedication. We saw him in action with President Vicente Fox and his wife giving away 800 wheelchairs in a long but emotional day in Mexico City. Several years later my mother, Jeff and I joined him in Tangshan, China for the largest distribution in one day in history- 1000 wheelchairs! After the dignitary speeches were finished, Ken stepped off the stage and proceeded to “meet and greet” every recipient and their families, which was one of his trademarks. We knew that would take an entire day, so each of us divided up the crowd into quadrants and took responsibility for greeting 250 people. My father also wanted to teach his grandchildren about helping others and took them on wheelchair distributions to Mexico during Christmas and China during Thanksgiving. Ken felt that it was paramount to instill the philanthropic spirit into kids at an early age and he always loved to hear about school children raising funds to help those less fortunate.

My brother Jeff and I, along with our dedicated staff and volunteers at the Wheelchair Foundation, pledge to carry on Ken Behring’s mission of helping as many physically disabled people as possible. We have achieved a tremendous amount of success but there are still 99 million people out there that need the gift of mobility. We hope you can join us in continuing my father’s dream.

Give the Gift of Mobility this holiday season by dedicating gifts to your friends and family and sponsoring wheelchairs in the name, honor or memory of someone you love. For your donation of $150, you will receive a beautiful presentation folder with a photo of a recipient, and a personalized certificate thanking or honoring that special person in your life.

Donations in any dollar amount help change the lives of those who are less fortunate and in need of mobility.

With your gift of $100 or more, we will send you a red triple function pen with flashlight and stylus to remind you throughout the year of your generous donation.

As an additional token of our appreciation, with your donation of $500 or more, we will include our aluminum constructed, Tomahawk Safety Flashlight.

No shopping, wrapping or shipping! Simply call us directly at 877.378.3839, donate online through our website (www.wheelchairfoundation.org), or use the enclosed envelope to donate by mail. Please make your donations by December 10th to allow sufficient time for us to prepare and mail your customized presentation folders.

Happy Holidays!

Sincerely,

David E. Behring
President

The inspiring story below was recently shared by our partners at the Wheelchair Foundation regarding Donlon Elementary’s generosity through their annual participation in the non-profit’s ‘From the Heart School Program’.  Please read and enjoy – thank you to our Cubs

Donlon Elementary School wrapped up their 5th year of participating in our From the Heart School Program this month. Each year they couple their efforts by pairing it with their annual Abilities Awareness Week. Students at Donlon spend time during PE experiencing what it might be like to use a wheelchair for mobility,

One Donlon student was so moved by what he learned regarding mobility issues around the world and what he experienced during Ability Awareness Week that he decided to donate the entire contents of his savings account. The total was $450 and enough to provide 3 wheelchairs. He did not want to be recognized which means that the joy for him was completely in the giving. What a wise and thoughtful young man!

He began a “ripple effect” in his classroom and at his school.   Donlon’s Principal, Janet Gates, was so moved by his giving that she decided to match his efforts by doing the same.  He also inspired his classmates to band together to canvas a neighborhood, raising awareness about the need for wheelchairs. The students that did so raised $150 in this way. Amazing to have children inspiring children and then ultimately inspiring us all!

Donlon’s total contribution topped all of their previous efforts and they raised $3,800 for our cause which will allow us to provide 25 new wheelchairs for Guatemala. Thank you Donlon Cubs for your generosity!