Rotarian Sandy Wightman visits with a young recipient while in Mexico for a mobility project.

Rotarians aid hundreds in Mexico

Semiahmoo group travels to Hermosillo for mobility project

A team of non-profit organizations has returned from a mobility project in Mexico, where more than $100,000 of aid was delivered to those in need.

Semiahmoo Rotarians teamed up with their Renton, Wa. counterparts, as well as the Surrey YMCA Panorama Interact and Canadian Wheelchair Foundation, and travelled to Hermosillo, Mexico in January for the project.

The three clubs, with financial help from the Peace Arch and Palgrave, Ont. Rotary clubs, raised more than $30,000 for the project. Later, they partnered with Hermosillo Mexico’s Pitic and Desierto Rotary Club to submit a grant application to Rotary International.

The group successfully secured $105,000 USD from the international organization to supply and deliver wheelchairs, walkers, canes, orthopedic aids and computerized muscular-therapy equipment to Hermosillo.

This is the third time in five years members of the Semiahmoo Rotary have visited the Mexican city. Longtime Rotarian Sandy Wightman has been a part of all three trips.

“It grew out of our first trip,” Wightman told Peace Arch News.

“Typically the trips are four days, three nights.

“In that time you begin to develop a pretty strong personal relationship with Rotarians in Mexico who are working hand-in-hand with you.”

Travelling to Hermosillo with the Rotarians were a handful of selected high-school students, who had their expenses partially paid for by the Rotary.

“As part of the project, we try to bring local youth with us to expand their horizons,” Wightman said, noting on this trip three teens from Surrey’s Frank Hurt Secondary joined them. “We select them based on contributions to the community that they’ve made.

“They’re very much involved in the project and it’s a tremendous educational experience for them, as well.”

According to a news release from Semiahmoo Rotary, Hermosillo and district – which has a population of nearly one million – has a disproportionately high percentage of children born with disabilities caused by disease, lack of adequate medical care and other causes. Additionally, many adults and seniors also need wheelchairs and mobility aids due to work-place accidents, diabetes-related amputations and age.

“Our system here is not perfect by any stretch,” Wightman said. “But a lot of people fall through much bigger cracks than those in Canada. There is not the level of support or safety net there.

“Poor people here would be considered rich in some environments there.”

There were 280 conventional wheelchairs in multiple sizes delivered to a children’s rehabilitation centre, to the homes of disadvantaged elderly and to temporary homes of migratory farm workers’ families, among other locations.

A unique computerized muscular-therapy device – called a Pablo Plus – which turns the physical therapy of children with disabilities into a computer game, was delivered to a child-development centre.

For Wightman, seeing the children who have received mobility assistance grow and thrive each time he returns due to the support they have been given is a huge part of the process.

“It is very emotional, extremely emotional, but also very rewarding,” he said.


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