wheelchair-basketball-3Luis is now one of 10 technicians employed at the Transitions wheelchair workshop, most of whom are disabled.  The technicians manufacture customized, adjustable, off-road wheelchairs from bicycle parts and local materials so they can be used and repaired anywhere in the country.  They also do repairs, modifications and refurbishments.  The wheelchairs are supplied at a subsidized rate to Guatemalans who would otherwise not be able to afford a chair.  Transitions provides each person who receives a wheelchair with education on health issues and training on how to care for their chair.  The workshop has provided 100 chairs so far this year.  They are also building chairs for the Guatemalan National Women’s Basketball Team.

Transitions operates a prosthetic/orthotic clinic and manufacturing workshop that provides artificial limbs and leg braces to Guatemalans in need.  Since 2002, Transitions has provided care and treatment for more than 200 prosthetic and orthotic patients.

The project also provides support in response to specific needs in the community.  Transitions provided 53 disabled Guatemalans with educational scholarships during 2008.  The project sponsors a special education classroom of 12 students in San Antonio Aguas Calientes.  Transitions also runs a living center for disabled Guatemalans in need of special help and medical attention.  Six people currently live in the center.

In addition, Transitions operates a graphic design and offset printing business as an income-generating project and vocational training program for Guatemalans with disabilities.  Revenue raised through the business is used to cover training costs, printed material costs and salaries for the employees.  The business currently provides employment for eight.

Life will always be challenging for people with disabilities in Guatemala – Luis still hasn’t been back to his family home, and may never be able to, due to his disability – but projects like Transitions make it possible for Luis and others like him to regain independence.

Less than a year and a half after his accident, Luis is back in the game.

You can contribute to the work of Transitions by volunteering, or by sponsoring a wheelchair, prosthetic/orthotic or educational scholarship.  To find out more, visit www.transitionsfoundation.org or email transitionsalexg@aol.com

Photographs courtesy of Eric Stone. His work can be seen at www.estonephoto.com

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About the Author

Laura Shearer comes to us from Melbourne, Australia. After studying Psychology at university, then deciding she didn't want to be a psychologist, she set off on the Aussie rite of passage: a year backpacking in Europe. She returned to Australia a more worldly woman and embarked on a master's degree in communications and a career in corporate Australia. Four years later, she decided she wanted to do something more meaningful than make rich people richer, so she traveled Guatemala with the intention of spending a few months helping to spread the wealth around a bit more. That was in 2006, and she's still here. Laura has spent much of her time in Guatemala working for non-profits and of late, has been the crack reporter for La Cuadra.