Elgin Park Secondary student Naomi Gantug and a wheelchair recipient.

Elgin Park Secondary student Naomi Gantug and a wheelchair recipient.

Reciprocal benefits


I’ve heard it said that to whom much is given, much is expected. Being a typical 15-year-old, I’ve never fully understood.


I’ve heard it said many times that to whom much is given, much is expected. Being a typical 15-year-old, and oftentimes admittedly a bit engulfed by my own sense of entitlement, I’ve never fully understood the meaning – until now.

I was recently given the wonderful opportunity in accompanying the Semiahmoo Rotary Club to Hermosillo, Mexico for the delivery of 115 wheelchairs to children with disabilities. As cliché as it sounds, the four-day venture opened my eyes to the harsh reality that exists outside the borders of home here in Surrey.

I’ve come to recognize our guilty tendency to gain blind spots in our views of life while being blessed to grow up in a developed country. We are stuck behind these impediments until we encounter something that can free us. Not everyone is given the chance to experience such an epiphany, and I’m glad to say that, for me, it was because of this trip.

Fundraising to purchase these wheelchairs began two years ago by the Semiahmoo Rotary Club, and it further involved the Canadian Wheelchair Foundation, which is also located in South Surrey, and the Panorama YMCA Interact Club.

On Mexico’s part, the Centre for the Rehabilitation of Children, the Sonora State Government Health Group, the Foundation for Children with Disabilities and the Hermosillo Rotary Club all worked to ensure each chair would be given to a deserving person, including five specially-equipped chairs for children with severe spinal conditions. The total dollar figure for the entire project stood over $24,000.

Distribution began with the first individual we met to the last woman whom we waved goodbye to, as she sat teary-eyed with the comfort of her new gift underneath her. It’s almost unbelievable to think how many hands we shook – with a warm kiss on the cheek, in respect to their customs – and the number of faces we saw lit up with gratitude.

I was very touched by one woman whose emotions came pouring down her cheeks, as I crouched to give her the most sincere hug I could. A good minute or so passed before I let go with a soaked shoulder, trying to fight my own tears.

When we lifted off the grounds of Hermosillo to return home, I wistfully gazed down at the city as it grew smaller. Aside from nostalgia flooding through me, I can’t begin to explain the feeling of fulfilment from having left a warm sentiment of Canada in the Mexicans’ hearts.

At the same time, the idea of even more people for whom gaining mobility is a distant dream made me want to help bring a smile to their faces, too, with the same way I had been a small part of this big initiative for the past few days. Fortunately, the club’s next set of plans are already drawn, with the goal of delivering another round of chairs in 2014.

To help, visit www.cdnwheelchair.ca or www.clubrunner.ca

Naomi Gantug, Surrey


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