Jorge smiling with womanThree important questions about the wheelchairs:

  • “Why are we collecting?”
  • “Where are they going?”
  • “Who gets them?”

“Why are we collecting?”

This is the first, and most common question we get.  Many people wonder why we would want wheelchairs that are previously used, and often times broken or missing parts.  There are two main reasons.  The first answer is that there are men, women and children of all ages in Guatemala that desperately need the gift of mobility.  In America, we are blessed to have many options in getting help with our medical needs.  We have insurance and government assistance.  If you truly need help, there is a way to get the assistance you need.  In Guatemala, the disabled have very little hope of receiving help.  The disabled are often seen as a burden.  Families continually struggle to find food and employment.  They don’t have time or money to help.  So, the person is simply left or hidden away at home.   Bed sores are a common, and often times a life-threatening problem.  To have any hope, they need mobility!

The second answer is, “We throw too much usable medical equipment into landfills.”  While this equipment may need some repair, it can be fixed or combined with other wheelchair parts and be serviceable once again.

“Where are they going?”  Bethel Wheelchair Shop

Once we collect the wheelchairs, they are placed into shipping containers and sent to Guatemala.  Bethel Ministries International (BMI) is a US 501(c)(3) organization that works with the disabled in Guatemala.  They are the largest wheelchair distributor in Latin America.

Bethel has a wheelchair shop in Chimaltenango, Guatemala where they refurbish the used wheelchairs.  The shop is a part of “Ministerio Cristiano Bethel”, the Guatemalan association of BMI that is made up of a team of 8 Guatemalans, most of whom are in wheelchairs themselves. In association with the Director, Saul Chopen, these men and women run the wheelchair restoration/repair shop and help with the distributions.

staff4       staff5

Often times, the chairs they receive are missing parts.  So, not only do they need wheelchairs, but also miscellaneous parts (such as foot rests, arm rests, bearings and seating material).

“Who gets them?”

Grandfather carrying Sonia

Grandfather carrying Sonia

Once the chairs have been refurbished, it’s time to find those who need them most.  Bethel has volunteers across Guatemala that locate the disabled in their communities.  A disability profile is documented on a form, which is then sent to Bethel for processing.  Each person will receive a chair that meets their physical needs.  Bethel needs pediatric and adult manual and power chairs (especially 18-inch and less).  Once Bethel gathers a group of recipients in a particular area, they host “distribution” events.  The recipients arrive in the morning, individually fitted with a wheelchair and leave the event with a renewed hope with mobility.

Application book

 Distribution event

“How is any of this possible?”

For any of this to happen, we need people to donate the equipment, volunteers to collect it and people willing to financially donate to ship them. That’s where the “Connection” part of our mission comes in. Please visit our “Volunteer” or “Donate pages to see how you can help.