My experience in Mexico was life altering and I feel that no words poetic enough to accurately convey how it felt to help the people of Mexico. It made me realize that you need to experience it for yourself. The life we live in the U.S. is not indicative of how the rest of the world lives. It makes me appreciate the fact that we have access health care and we can receive the services we need early enough to prevent severe complications and deformities. So much of the world does not have that privilege. This trip was eye opening. The community has minimal to no handicapped accessibility. It is evident that having a disability is not as acceptable in Mexico. People are often hidden away, in fact… forced to stay in their homes because of lack of mobility equipment and lack of public accessibility.
We spent a couple days seeing the community and its accessibility issues as well as visiting some local homes. This helped tremendously to understand the difficulties Mexicans face while ambulating in a wheelchair or with a walker. Many roads are rocks and uneven. It is not uncommon for homes to have dirt floors. Push International had some commodes and shower chairs to donate to people, however, some people did not even have showers or toilets.
During the mornings and early afternoons, when we were not distributing wheelchairs, we delivered occupational therapy services to the children with disabilities at Padres y Compadres. It was an incredible learning experience. Not only was I able to apply principles I have been learning in school and get hands-on practice, I was also able to teach the parents and “therapists” in Mexico some techniques so that they could continue to treat the children once we were gone. I drove an adapted vehicle with hand controls for a person in a wheelchair to drive. I played soccer with Mexican children on the beach and raced wheelchairs in the neighborhood. We fed the children with disabilities lunch. In the evenings, we would distribute wheelchairs to the community. Wheelchair distributions were the best part of my day. It took some creative thinking and mechanical skill to assemble each wheelchair with random pieces that were donated from the States, and then try to custom fit each wheelchair to the recipient so that they had a correct fitting. We were challenged to solve problems that we had not faced before as OT students, and work together as a team to get the job done. We assembled and distributed a total of 98 pieces of mobility equipment to recipients who were in great need... helping Push International meet their milestone of 1000 recipients!
The most amazing moment of the trip was when I worked with two other occupational therapy (OT) students to fit a woman, about my age, with a wheelchair. She lived 600 miles away from the Padres y Compadres campus, but came down on a bus with her mother so that she could receive her first wheelchair. She had Cerebral Palsy and spent most hours of the day in bed because she otherwise depended on her mom to carry her everywhere. She had the worst case of Scoliosis I have ever seen. We spent over two hours assembling her a good-fitting chair. We custom-made a backrest with foam that fit the contour of her back. By the time we were finished, a stranger passing by on the street would not even be able to tell she had such a deformity because the fitting was done well enough to almost hide it. It was great to be able to give this young woman a little bit of confidence.
Thank you so much Push for giving me this opportunity to learn, to meet some amazing people, to become involved in an amazing organization, and to help others. I loved it!
I would like to share with you some of the best experiences I had while in Mazatlan. I met a 26-year-old woman who needed a wheelchair. She contracted a rare virus called transverse mellitus and is no unable to use her legs. As my partner Kiersten and I were getting to know her so we could match her with the best possible chair we learned she used to be a very active person. She used to box and play rugby and since she contracted this virus she had become very depressed and felt helpless. We found her a great wheelchair to have that is sporty, fast and light. Jeff and Bree also invited her to help out Push International as a volunteer to help give her meaning in life. She was also introduced to Sergio who helps to run Push International while Bree is here in the States. Sergio is also wheelchair bound be has been able to compete in tennis and biking competitively. I hope that he helps to get her involved and active. She was so excited to have the chair we gave her and I have all the faith she will build a new identity for herself and find something she can do to help others.
Each and every day I was met with a new challenge, whether it was fitting a person with a wheelchair, meeting someone with a diagnosis I did not understand or feeding and playing with the disabled children in the day care. I was able to learn new techniques and try out my own ideas due to the great leadership of my team lead Bree Lair, co-founder of Push International. She was a wealth of knowledge and allowed us to problem solve small issues and assist us in problem solving bigger issues.
It was one of the best and most challenging trips of my life. This is a great organization that is very caring and takes pride in even the smallest accomplishments.
We had an AMAZING trip to Mazatlan Mexico in March. We were gone almost two weeks over spring break which even on laid back Mexican time went by very fast. A few weeks before the trip Lexi (age 9) & Alan (age 7) asked their classes to join them in collecting school supplies and writing notes to the kids we would see in Mexico. Lexi took charge and was able to give away about 40 packets of school supplies. Some to kids receiving a wheelchair, others to siblings, children and grandchildren of those receiving the wheelchair. We also stocked them with bubbles and other toys to share in hopes of helping them overcome the language barrier and participate in their own unique way. Lexi was a big help in the administrative end of things, paperwork & photo taking, while Alan was more interested in helping Jeff in the mechanical world. He would hang out in the shop, follow Jeff and other guys around like a shadow, fetch tools and other tasks as he is beginning to enter the “man cave” phase. Lexi, Alan and I were also able to participate in some “art therapy” with the kids attending Padres y Compadres rehab center. I had fun watching faces light up as the kids dotted, blended and smeared colors of paint on the paper, floor, themselves, each other and me! My camera even had an added stroke of red from sweet Marisol by the end of the day.Later in the week we were able to color with the children as well and learned a very important lesson: make sure you only bring washable markers! A few of Lexi's classmates were gracious enough to donate packs of markers, and we discovered not all of them wash off easily off floors, walls, legs, faces etc. Alan may have come up with a new approach to physical therapy, I think we should call it “boys will be boys therapy!” Alan & Carlitos played catch for quite a while and I was amazed how far and accurate Carlitos was able to throw a ball. Later the two of them with Leo (who is blind) built a tower blocks, crashed it, built it again, crash, build . I left the room for a while, but all over the campus we heard laughter and happy screams and later the stories of the “ultimate ball war” where everyone in the room got into the game. I believe it began tossing or kicking a ball back and forth, then two at a time, maybe eight, soon a dozen or more all going back and forth. In the air, on the ground, over heads, through legs, whew! Everyone looked a little tired after; adults, kids, mobile or not. While the kids and I played, Jeff and others spent several days working hard in the sun & dirt refurbishing 100 wheelchairs for the distributions. As a much awaited gift on Jeff's birthday, the truck we loaded at our house before we left showed up with 100 more wheelchairs ready to distribute! The truck was running on Latin time and was expected maÃ±ana, maÃ±ana, maÃ±ana. (which literally translates more like “not today”) We were just hoping it would arrive while we were still there:)! It was SOOO cool to see the whole campus and many kids from the neighborhood gather to unload the truck. Even Anna (age 22 with Cerebral Palsy) came to help! Overall we were able to give away around 60 wheelchairs plus walkers, canes & crutches. Jeff was able to work on one wheelchair with Lexi & Alan. He had to take time out from running like the energizer bunny between the other groups, and it gave Alan the chance to use more tools! We were able to see Israel again. Jeff gave him his first chair in 2003, and a walker last June. With great caregivers and therapy he is receiving from Esperanza's, a partnering therapy center, Israel is growing into a very strong young man who simply needed a bigger chair! The unique aspects of this week came when participating in a few home visits. Jeff celebrated his birthday giving Aurora a wheelchair, who then gave him a beautifully decorated Christmas decoration she made. Note: she is blind and the detail is amazing! The team was able to encourage her to continue her crafts, and it gave her much joy, hope and purpose in her current situation. The team was able to build a ramp for Carlitos home and adapt one for Jorge's as well. We were able to give away “our first” Hoyer lift. It was donated and shipped down, but sat in a storage room for months as no one knew what to do with it. This was a new and exciting part of the ministry week. We hope to continue this aspect of adapting homes for wheelchair access and other support that may arise as well! And oh my, does God show us His timing through these small acts of service. The whole week we saw the hands and feet of God at work, but the personal invitation into the peoples home made it real. One quick story, (remember we experienced over 60 in the short week) Jorge received a wheelchair on a home visit midweek. He has been bedridden for six months after a sever car accident where he broke his neck. He and his mother were very thankful, but she was unable to lift him into it much less get it over a door jam in their home. By chance (aka Gods amazing timing), we were able to give him a Hoyer lift and build a ramp to aid his mother in moving him. He was able to get outside for the first time in six months to enjoy the warm air and sit under a beautiful and fragrant limon tree in his front yard. We were also able to coordinate a visit from a doctor and possible therapy in home. Neither of which he has received the last six months. I stood back and attended to my job of taking pictures, paperwork, and taking it all in, I thought about: It was quite a nice neighborhood actually, beautiful and well cared for homes. I cannot describe the amazing scent from the limon tree, we just don't get anything to compare to in Colorado. Watching this dedicated and diverse group doing what they can for this sweet man and his loving mother, yet strangers. Jorge smile at us crazy gringos as we picked the limons, especially noting him smile and laugh at Lexi pretending they were eyeballs or something. Followed by sadness knowing he is probably missing his own daughter he hasn't seen since the accident. Happy that our silly kids brought some joy to him that day. And many other things that you cannot put into words. Mostly I will not forget the look of hope on Jorge and his mothers face as we were leaving. I was looking out to them resting under the tree as we drove away and Jorge waved goodbye. I looked at Jeff and said, “Hey, I didn't think he had use of his hands!” Through Gods amazing blessings Jorge found hope for his future and the will to try, even if it starts with a simple wave. I can't wait to go back and see his progress, and maybe add another story to our memories! The offer is always open for you to join us sometime:)
The Push International staff is composed of the most compassionate and self-less people I have ever met. As an occupational therapy graduate student, I was seeking a chance to use my knowledge to benefit a community and simultaneously learn more about the world of therapy. Volunteering through Push International gave me this opportunity. We brought donated wheelchairs to Culiacan, Sinaloa, Mexico and fit 50 people for wheelchairs and then drove back to the therapy center in Mazatlan to fit two more children for chairs. One woman looking to find a wheelchair for her young son traveled a far distance to meet with us Culiacan. Unfortunately we did not have any wheelchair options for her son at that site, but the Push team did not drop the issue. In fact, we readily offered to drive her back to the therapy center in Mazatlan to find and fit a wheelchair for her son. By the time we reached Mazatlan, the team got to work and adjusted and renovated a wheelchair to be not only supportive, but also comfortable for her son. We were also able to educate her on the various ways to adjust the wheelchair when appropriate and how to safely maneuver the wheelchair. This story is one of many from the volunteer trip that shows the relentless passion to help all families no matter what the circumstances. Push International, thank you for this amazing learning and growing experience!
I have one word to sum up my experience with PUSH International – unselfish. The people working in the United States and in Mexico, work tirelessly. They do not make money providing services but they do make an incredible impact on so many lives of the families in Mexico and the volunteers who help PUSH International. My role: PUSH International asked me to instruct the mothers at the daycare center so that the mothers would be better informed of movement patterns of typically developing children with hope that they could apply that information to their own child and the other children at the daycare center who have a disability. One needs to understand the typical patterns of movement before understanding the influence of a neurological impairment on movement as seen with children with cerebral palsy. Most of the mothers have not been educated beyond elementary school but their enthusiasm to learn and apply the information was overwhelming for this professor. They are eager to help; they just need to be educated. The group, including the mothers in the daycare center, the owners of the daycare center and 4 students, worked with each other to understand the movement issues that cause functional problems for the kids, such as positioning themselves at a table for eating and eating itself. The mothers and students worked side-by-side helping each other out. It was an incredible experience to have cross-cultural experiences for all while attempting to apply newly learned concepts. The care and passion that the mothers have was overwhelming, particularly since they are not as blessed as we are with opportunities. They lack the education and the equipment resources (kid tables for kids to sit at versus laying on the floor or mat like they presently do) that we Americans have access to so easily, but they have a creative problem solving spirit that was admirable from my perspective. After instructions and practice in the daycare center, kitchen area and out in the foyers of the daycare center, the group went into the homes of some of the people with disabilities. We evaluated the accessibility of the home for the person with the disability but also the care providers who often hurt themselves while caring for a person with disabilities. The coordinator and myself worked out various issues after listening to the family’s concerns. Upon our return, the coordinator, Jeff Lair, sent an email with a report on the status of the home modifications and construction provided to many of the families. Most of the work had been done but the need for money to continue to support the program become obvious. Piece milling is common but some of it can be unsafe, thus the need for more money to assist in the safe construction of equipment, not only for the home but in the daycare center, too. Overall: I am honored to have worked with them and will continue to work with this group due to their integrity and overwhelming belief in the need to help others. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at 253-879-2661. Sincerely, Marge Luthman, MS, OTR/L Clinical Assistant Professor School of Occupational Therapy University of Puget Sound 1500 Warner Ave Tacoma, WA 98416 firstname.lastname@example.org
I have been on a couple of trips with Push. one time they arranged for training on fitting a person in a wheelchair before we left the states. When I arrived in Mexico I was more confident in being able to help the recipients at the distributions. We were able to serve more people with equipment to fit their particular disability. They always have someone there to check the fit. I was able to serve the same person twice when she came back a couple of years later for another wheelchair. She had been in another accident and her needs had changed. I worked with kids and the horse therapy. It is amazing how the kids had improved from my last trip. Push delivered donated supplies for the program including halters, lead ropes and grooming supplies. They provide so much to so many people in the community.
After years of wanting to go on a mission trip I finally had the opportunity to help lead a team from my church with my husband. I fell in love with the work we did, the people we met, and the lives we were able to touch. There is so much we did to help the disabled community get mobility and help lift a burden from their families too. My husband worked with this organization longer than I did and we were able to get to know the president very well. We were able to go down for his funeral after he passed away and to be a part of the planning for the summer. We then flew down early that summer to get things in place for the teams we would be hosting. This organization does a great job starting here in the states with there organization of awesome fundraisers and great travel agent help all the way through the trip. They really take care of the people they work with and the people they help.
Anything I could say about my trip to Mazatlan would be an understJessica and Lionel playing with blocksatement. The experience itself was invaluable. Push International has developed a program for their volunteers that allows them to immerse themselves into the culture of the people they are helping, while giving them the chance to learn without boundaries. The environment they have created is conducive to new ideas and self-discovery, something that is hard to find in a clinical setting in the United States. As volunteers, we were challenged to solve problems that we had not faced before and work as a team to get the job done. We learned that it is okay for your idea to fail time and time again, if there is a solution to be found in the end. Unbreakable bonds were formed between team members and the families who came into our lives through this mission, and in the end, everyone left with a little more hope than they had come with.
I have been on trips with Push International many times. It always amazes me to see the gratitude that the people we serve share with us. I am a much better person after I return from the trip. I set out to serve the people and always find that I am the one being served. When you get the chance to get on your knees in front of a person who is thought of as not significant in their culture, see the smiles and joy in their face, while wiping the tears from your own, you truely see a miracle. The big difference that i find with Push International is these many miracles. Push International always puts relationship first. Push builds into the community and doesn't just hold events. Push makes promises to the people and keeps them by returning to serve again and again. Family is the best word I can think of. Push is part of the family with the people they serve and I found that having served with Push that I am part of the family too.
Meeting Sergio Valdez is a memorable experience indeed. Although quite humble, he is also very formidable, confident and energetic. His mechanical and carpentry skills were developed through a career in construction. He comes from a family of carpenters and craftspeople. He is strong as an ox and always has a kindly smile on his face. Sergio is also an artist. But that is only the beginning. Sergio regularly participates in the Annual Marathon in his home town. He was ranked 1st in tennis in the singles and doubles division in his district and is an athelete of high order. Since the accident which broke his back in a fall on a construction site 16 years ago, Sergio Valdez is also a wheelchair user. Working at Push International is his dream job, he is happy to tell others at every opportunity. "I never dreamed that I would have the chance to serve so many disabled people or to make such an immediate and positive impact on the lives of so many families", he said to reporters in an interview from the local press on one occasion. Today Sergio is the Director of Distributions at Push International’s Hub # 1 based in MazatÃ¡n, MÃ©xico. He oversees the modifications, adaptations and adjustments to each wheelchair to assure that every piece of donated equipment perfectly suits the needs and conditions of the person with disabilities and of his or her family. Sergio says, “Every day I am blessed to see how my work lifts people up, recognizes their inherent dignity and inspires them to use their own unique talents to overcome the challenges and circumstances they face in their own daily lives.”