Having served as a part time missionary in Haiti over the last 10 years, I recently returned from a distribution trip with FWM in Vietnam.
I have read the other reviews, and often wonder what it is that sets some people off to try and give a bad impression of people or organizations that have good intentions.
From my experience on the vietnam trip, I can say that i was impressed with the quality and durability of the chairs. We have had these chairs in Haiti for a few years, and they hold up far better than ANY conventional chair when used in third world conditions. The "lawn chair" is used only as the seating surface, and does not have a structural purpose.
After assembling and distributing over 200 chairs in just 4 days, I do not recall anyone who received a chair complaining about the fact that they were now mobile. Some had been on the ground for over 50 years.
I love FWM, and will join them on future trips. I believe their goal and gift is well worth the cost and everyone on the FWM staff that I met is honest about their intentions and calling.
Review from CharityNavigator
I feel very privileged to call Free Wheelchair Mission a friend. I lead an organization called Giving It Back to Kids. We have been fortunate to partner with FWM for over 5 years now and have distributed over 55,000 wheelchairs to the disabled in Vietnam.
Coming from a nation that Handicapped accessibility is law, makes it very hard for us to even fathom that literally hundreds of thousands in Vietnam alone have to either crawl or depend on someone to move them. Even things we take for granted are impossible without assistance.
I have personally lifted men without legs into their first wheelchair. I cannot find words to express the felling it is to see a man smile and get a glimmer of hope in their eye. That maybe just maybe now they can go out and find a way to work. To have them reach out and squeeze my arms. Though we do not speak the same language the gratitude is overwhelming.
The countless I have met who have not been outside in years and the biggest things they could think of doing was just to go outside and feel the sun on their skin. Or the man who when I asked what will do first. He smiled at me, got a faraway look in his eyes and said I will wheel down to the river and sit by “myself” for the first time in many years! I realized that everywhere he has been he has had to be with someone at his side. Everywhere he went he depended on someone to carry him!
I could go on and on with story after story of the impact Free Wheelchair Mission has on lives of the disabled all around the world. But one thing I don’t hear talked about is the huge impact it has on organizations like us who work in Vietnam. The wheelchairs have opened doors and given us great favor with the Government. With this favor we have been able to do so many other cutting edge programs!
Thank you Don Schoendorfer and all the terrific and committed staff of Wheelchair Mission
I LOVE the Free Wheelchair Mission! It was my first mission trip and it was the best experience of my life! I read some other reviews and I'd like to correct a couple mistakes. The wheelchairs are FREE to people recieving them (people donate about $60 per chair to purchase one and send it to someone who needs it). I can't explain how grateful the people are who recieve these chairs! Also, the chairs do consist of a "lawnchair", which is very durable and is the best possable choice for the areas they'll be in! The chairs have a cushioned seat, mountain bike tires (as the roads in most underdeveloped countries are dirt), and breaks that are inspected at every distribution. Elderly people, hurt children or disabled people delight in having their own chair to finally move around in. The chairs also have a footrest, which is adjusted for each specific person to the length of their legs for their comfort. These chairs provide people with mobility and comfort! During my trip to Viet Nam, we met a man who had been on the ground for 45 years. He smiled when we lifted him into his own chair :). If anyone has the means to go on a trip like this, I highly recommend it!
Review from CharityNavigator