A Cure for Cobblestones
Transitions creates 10 years of mobility in Antigua
Transitions Foundation, an Antigua-based organization dedicated to supporting and empowering Guatemalans with disabilities, is celebrating the 10th anniversary of its wheelchair workshop. The workshop offers employment opportunities, currently to nine people with disabilities, and produces affordable and custom-tailored wheelchairs and mobility devices for those in need.
The workshop was rented from Raphael Alvarez in 1997 as a dream that was made a reality two years later by a group of Canadian Rotarians, carpenters, electricians and craftsmen. A Rotary International matching grant provided the funding in 2000 for technical training by Whirlwind Wheelchair International and San Francisco State University and for the purchase of the tools and equipment. Full-scale production began later that year and in 2010 Transitions is on target to make 200 chairs. More than 40 people, the majority of whom are Guatemalans with disabilities, have been trained in the workshop over its 10-year history, helping thousands of clients to achieve mobility and independent lifestyles.
Engineers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are tapping into the workshop’s experience in production and innovation this summer to perfect and construct the internationally recognized Leveraged Freedom Wheelchair design. In August 30 chairs will be produced for local trials, making Antigua the incubator of groundbreaking innovation. Transitions is also hosting a student from Stanford University who is researching prosthetics in resource-scarce countries. The Transitions Prosthetics and Orthotics Clinic is a blossoming program that changed the lives of 36 patients in 2009.
The organization’s North American founder, John Bell, retired in March 2010, leaving the management in very capable Guatemalan hands. A $50,000 fundraising initiative was launched in April to usher the foundation through the transitional phase. To date $40,000 has been raised with high hopes of reaching the goal in August and providing stability moving forward.
Tours and Volunteering
Individuals and groups are encouraged to contact Transitions for more information about the wheelchair workshop tour schedule and weekly English Night activities. English Night offers local Guatemalans with disabilities the chance to practice their language skills and gain a cross-cultural perspective. It is also a great opportunity for Spanish students to wrap their mind around the vos form and other modismos.