The first of 1,000 wheelchairs make it to Haiti

Some of the thousands of Haitian amputees injured during the Jan. 12 earthquake are mobile again.

They are the beneficiaries of the first shipment of what eventually will be 1,000 wheelchairs, thanks to the Knights of Columbus and the American Wheelchair Mission, run by Chris Lewis, son of comedian Jerry Lewis.

Some of the wheelchairs were distributed April 27-29 to patients at a field hospital operated by a University of Miami medical team. Located on the grounds of the international airport in Port-au-Prince, the Haitian capital, the 240-bed hospital has treated hundreds of people who suffered crushing injuries during the massive magnitude 7 quake.

“We gave wheelchairs to 15 people that day (April 27) who could not leave until they got a wheelchair,” Lewis told Catholic News Service May 3 from his office in Camarillo, Calif. “People are in the hospital but couldn’t go anywhere because they could not move. These wheelchairs are helping them resume their life.”

Lewis said the people he met were grateful for the wheelchairs. A few told him they were going to find a church to thank God for the gift.

During the last few days of April, Lewis’ foundation delivered 400 wheelchairs to the hospital in conjunction with the HHS Foundation in the Dominican Republic. Because of limited storage space, the rest of the delivery will be staged over the next several weeks.

The Knights of Columbus is sponsoring the delivery.

Knights’ spokesman Patrick Korten said the effort is part of the organization’s 7-year-old worldwide wheelchair program.

“It was very rewarding (to be there),” Korten said, “but a bit disconcerting … to see so many people with so serious injuries and without limbs. They can use these wheelchairs.”

Lewis, a fourth-degree Knight, started his foundation in August after working for another wheelchair foundation for nine years. He said he helped coordinate the delivery of 750,000 wheelchairs to 150 countries during that period.

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One Response to The first of 1,000 wheelchairs make it to Haiti

  1. Jim says:

    The KC’s did a wonderful thing but the people of Haiti need more than wheel chairs. They need jobs! These poor people need the right to compete with Americans to work and support their families. Sound controversial because it may drive down US wages? Maybe we won’t be able to afford that second color TV or maybe we won’t be able to send “Junior” or “Sissy” to the soccer camp. When we talk about “social justice” what do we really mean? Look at what is happening in places like India and China where starvation is being reduced because these people are allowed to compete with us. Oh you say, “These people are being exploited by a capitalist system”. Don’t worry about that. The people will work those things on their own without the meddling of the “social justice” crowd.

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