In 2016, Faith In Practice piloted a wheelchair clinic program in partnership with Free Wheelchair Mission. Through this program, our volunteer medical clinic teams and surgical teams have assembled and distributed wheelchairs to more than 4,000 Guatemalan patients in need of mobility aids.
Byron Alonzo with Ilse from Free Wheelchair Mission and our patients
Our wheelchairs are provided by Free Wheelchair Mission, a faith-based nonprofit that designs and manufactures durable wheelchairs specially designed for use in developing countries around the world.
During a mobility clinic, patients receive a medical consultation by a physician who evaluates their health needs and treats any ongoing health issues, whether they are related to their mobility needs or not. If necessary, they are referred for surgery that will be performed by one of our surgical mission teams. Patients then meet with a physical therapist who fits them with the proper mobility aid, which can be a wheelchair, crutches, walker, or cane. The majority of patients receive a wheelchair. Physical therapists work with patients to make sure their wheelchair fits correctly, teaches them exercises to maintain strength, and shows them how to properly move in and out of their chair to avoid pressure ulcers.
Josue Greenman with a patient
The wheelchairs and mobility aids that our patients receive are truly life-changing for them and for their caregivers. Oftentimes, patients have spent years relying completely on their family members to carry them around and support them with all of their daily needs. Patients tend to have a number of health issues that result from not having proper mobility aids or treatment for their injuries or conditions.
The wheelchairs our patients receive allows them to better navigate their surroundings and live with more independence. They are able to live with the dignity they deserve and to have longer, healthier lives. Learn more about the patients we served at a recent mobility clinic in San José Pinula.
The Mission Continues
With the spread of COVID-19, our mission teams were no longer able to travel to Guatemala, but we are committed to serving Guatemalans in need of mobility aids and are still able to hold clinics at this time. In fact, at the beginning of the pandemic, we were one of the few partners of Free Wheelchair Mission around the world that had been able to continue distributing wheelchairs during the pandemic. As restrictions have lifted in most countries, more organizations have been able to distribute wheelchairs.
We currently serve a more limited number of patients at our clinics in order to maintain social distancing guidelines and other safety protocols that are required by the Guatemalan government. Josué Greenman, our Director of Partnerships, has been working hard at planning and running these clinics, which are now held weekly. At the clinic, patients still receive a primary care visit by Dra. Patty Baiza and they meet with Samuel Villatoro, our physical therapist. Blanca Puz and Byron Alonzo are our technicians who are in charge of wheelchair assembly, quality control, and they train patients on how to use their chairs.
Despite the limitations, we have held clinics regularly since June. Each month we have been able to expand the number of clinics we hold and serve in more and more locations across Guatemala.
Blanca Puz assembling wheelchairs