This is not to say that losing the use of your legs would be easy, or wouldn't be traumatic. And of course a permanent disability is a completely life-changing event. But wheelchairs are an everyday fact of life for millions of people, and often a completely unremarkable fact of life.
But imagine needing a wheelchair and not having one. Now that would be horrible. People all over the world face that confinement and dependence. And I know someone who's doing something about it.
* * * *
A couple of years ago, I wrote a story for Kids On Wheels magazine about young people with disabilities who are activists. I didn't intend to focus only on disability-related activism, and I have no doubt that there are kids with disabilities active in the environmental movement, in politics, in animal welfare, what have you. But my research turned up some young movers and shakers of the disability-rights world, and introducing them to my readers - wheelchair-users roughly between the ages of 7 and 12 - was a joy. You can read the story here. (That's actually the whole issue, if you're interested in what the magazine looked like.)
One of them, Rasha Kawar, I had written about before: when she was 8, Rasha began a petition drive to require airplanes to have a disabled-accessible washroom on board. It's easy to do, but it means the loss of seats, so airlines are digging in their heels. When I caught up with Rasha a few years later, she was still a driven activist, and I can see she always will be.
Emily Schmidlin was another amazing young woman I interviewed for that story. Emily is bursting with energy and optimism. She's an organizer, a leader, a do-er. But she's also warm, compassionate and generous. It's quite a combination. Emily and I discovered we shared a love of travel, but I was a little nuts with envy when I learned she's been in all 50 states and 10 provinces!
I get Emily's Facebook feed, and through that learned of her current project. Now I'll turn this post over to her.
Subject: Help me transform lives through the gift of mobility
This year, I am teaming up with Free Wheelchair Mission in order to raise funds to provide wheelchairs to the disabled poor in developing nations around the world. I have had many amazing opportunities in my life, none of which would have been possible without a wheelchair.
For many physically disabled people, a wheelchair is beyond their dreams. For the poor and immobile in developing countries, the simplest daily functions are a struggle. Many lack the basic mobility needed for a life of dignity and independence.
However, a simple solution is available. Free Wheelchair Mission manufactures and distributes a sturdy wheelchair specifically designed for developing countries for only $59.20 per chair. Each chair is distributed at no cost to the recipient. My wish is to enable these people to experience a small piece of what I take for granted.
I have set a personal goal to change 550 lives (one shipping crate = 550 chairs). A donation of $59.20 will purchase a wheelchair. Any donation is appreciated and will be used to partially fund a chair. With your help, independence, mobility and hope will transform lives around the world.
Thank you for your help!
I told Emily I could make a small donation, and I would post about it on wmtc and on Facebook. This was her reply.
Thank you so much for your support! Every bit is greatly appreciated. I think of it this way, 5920 pennies can transform a life in the same way that one gift of $59.20 does, so there is no gift too small. When I reach my goal, I will be going on a mission trip to distribute the chairs. I am excited to have the opportunity and privilege to enter into the lives of the recipients!
Thanks again and take care,
This is Emily's signature line:
I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And I will not let what I cannot do interfere with what I can do. ~ Edward Everett Hale
To donate online, go here.
If you prefer to donate by cheque or check, email me for Emily's address.
Remember what she said: no amount is too small.