Wheelchair distribution begins

Trip Start Jan 15, 2013
Trip End Feb 07, 2013

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Flag of Colombia  , Norte de Santander,
Thursday, January 24, 2013

It is never easy to truly capture the emotion of an experience that leaves such a deep imprint.  The purpose of our trip to Colombia is to distribute 280 wheelchairs with the assistance of Rotary and friends of the Wheelchair Foundation under the able leadership of its champion, Hansi Zihlmann. This blog will offer a snapshot of our  wheelchair journey in Cucuta and Pamplona during the past five days
  Day 1 -- January 24-- Cucuta
The first distribution day took us to the inner courtyard of a large Catholic boys school.  We were to experience a format that became characteristic of most ceremonies -- singing of both national anthems and the Rotarya anthem, a series ad speeches by local dignitaries and our own president, Kelly Fisher, followed by a wheelchair demonstration and then the actual presentations to recipients and families.  It is refreshing to feel the proud connection to Canada as we lift our voices in song.  Close to 30 wheelchairs were presented in a flurry of activity and emotion.   Families, Rotarians and recipients from young to elderly...all seem to seem to have trouble holding back tears or expressing delighted grins.  We quickly learn that there are some faces who stay in our minds.  As one elderly lady murmured to President Kelly, "You've given me my life back!". This first day wouldn't be complete without acknowledging the help of the volunteer civil defense workers who organized and assembled the chairs.  Their pride resonated in their smiles when photographed.
The afternoon began with a presentation from the government sponsored UNIDOS project created to assist needy families to develop greater independence.   These families live in abject poverty in an area referred to as the barrios located near a river that in rainy season will flood.  We were introduced to two refugee families.  One two room dilapidated home constructed of everything imaginable housed 20 extended family members.  What is sad is that this is yet another type of need that we could not begin to address.  The barrios are vulnerable to theft at all times.  We were to able to visit another family  who has succeeded in relocating into a safer and more comfortable home.  They shared the story of their  in house textiles company making on order clothing.  This reminded us so much of the Kiva projects that we took up a small collection to help purchase more material for their clothing production.
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