Consider the white plastic chair. It’s ubiquitous. A quick tour around one block in a northside Chicago neighborhood this morning revealed half a dozen of them hanging around ignored in yards. Although we are having a mild winter in Chicago, it’s too cold to sit outside and linger so they are idle. Maybe you don’t even see them at this time of year; they are part of the dross of winter. Photographers, however, trained to see what ordinary eyes pass over, see them. There is at least one Flickr group devoted to them.
In many parts of the world they are a thing of beauty. They have transformed the lives of people who formerly had to lie in bed all day because they couldn’t get up and walk around. Imagine, not only are you unable to walk, you are also stuck in the house all day, feeling bored at best, useless and depressed at worst.
With some changes and additions the chair becomes the access to mobility for people in rural areas of Latin America. We partnered with Free Wheel Chair Mission, a non-profit organization based in California. They have some inspiring stories of their own on their website. So far we have sent a container of 550 chairs to Ecuador at a cost of $40,000. We are planning, with fundraising help from the Lions Club and the Rotary Club to send another container to Ecuador within the next two months. We are also planning to send one to Panama. This, however, may take a little longer as it’s the first time we will be sending a container there and customs rules are different for every country.
At the end, it’s all worth it. The fundraising, figuring out customs regulations, assembling the chairs, is all rewarded by the smiles on the faces of the people who become mobile again.