I 've heard many times before that to whom much is given, much is expected. Being one of today's typical carefree 15-year-old girls, and oftentimes admittedly a bit engulfed by my own sense of entitlement, I've never fully understood the meaning of this idea - not until now.
Just recently, four youth including myself were given the wonderful opportunity of accompanying the Semiahmoo Rotary Club to Hermosillo, Mexico for the delivery of 115 wheelchairs to children with disabilities. As cliché as it sounds, the four-day venture truly opened my eyes to the harsh reality that does exist outside the borders of home here in Surrey, having witnessed it first-hand. I've come to recognize our guilty tendency as kids to have blind spots in our view of life while being blessed to grow up in a developed country like Canada. We are stuck behind these impediments until we encounter something that can free us.
I know not everyone is given the chance to experience such an epiphany, and since I was lucky enough to, I'm definitely glad to say that for me, it was because of this trip. I realized that the more fortunate we are, the more we really should reach out to those who have not been granted such comfortable circumstances.
Fundraising efforts to purchase these wheelchairs began about two years ago by the Semiahmoo Rotary Club, and it further involved the Canadian Wheelchair Foundation, which is also located in South Surrey, and the Panorama YMCA Interact Club, of which I am a proud member.
Our Interact group made this wheelchair project our primary goal last year and we worked toward the cause throughout the year with passion burning inside every one of us.
In Mexico, the Centre for the Rehabilitation of Children (CRIT), the Sonora State Government Health Group, the Foundation for Children with Disabilities (DIF) and the Hermosillo Rotary Club have all worked diligently to make sure each and every one of these chairs would be given to those who needed them most.
The wheelchairs were all meant for deserving people, including five specially-equipped chairs for children with severe spinal conditions. The total dollar figure for the entire project stood at more than $24,000, each standard chair costing about $150 and the special ones $500 each.
As for the actual distribution of the chairs, it began with the first individuals we met at DIF, to the last woman whom we waved goodbye to as she sat teary-eyed at her doorstep, with the comfort of her new gift underneath her. It's almost unbelievable to think how many hands we shook (with a warm kiss on the cheek, in respect to their customs), the many heartfelt blessings we received, and the number of faces we saw lit up with the effect of gratitude, all in just four short days. I was very touched by one woman whose overwhelmed emotions suddenly turned to tears pouring down her cheeks as I stood up from my crouched position beside her to give her the most sincere hug I could. A good minute or so passed before I let go with a soaked shoulder, and at this point I was trying to fight my own tears.
When it came time to lift off the ground of Hermosillo to return home, I wistfully gazed down at the city as it grew smaller with more altitude. Aside from nostalgia flooding through me, I can't begin to explain my feeling of fulfillment from having left a warm sentiment of Canada in the Mexicans' hearts. All at the same time, the idea of even more people for whom gaining mobility is a distant dream made me want nothing more than to go back and help bring a smile to their faces too, in the same way I had been a small part of this big initiative for the past few days.
Fortunately however, according to Mr. Sandy Wightman of the Semiahmoo Rotary Club, the next set of fundraising plans are already drawn, with the goal of delivering another round of wheelchairs in 2014.
Naomi Gantug is a Grade 10 student at Elgin Park Secondary in South Surrey. She hopes to continue her charity work.