For several decades, North American service clubs such as Rotary and Kiwanis have partnered with international counterparts in providing medical equipment to those in need in developing nations. While greatly appreciated and for the most part highly successful, some of these programs fail to accept the realities of the nations being served and the conditions in which recipients live. Take, for example, wheelchairs. According to Playas del Coco homeowner and internationally known foot surgeon Dr. Steve Miller, approximately 100 wheelchairs are being donated in Costa Rica this year, with many being designated for Guanacaste.
While wheelchairs may provide tremendous opportunities for those living in San José, the benefits to those in rural areas are considerably less because of rutted and muddy roads, heavy seasonal rains and lack of equipment on public transportation to allow much travel beyond the user’s home or yard. Just last week, while driving back from central Coco, I witnessed a young girl of about 12 trying to set a fallen chair upright alongside the road during a heavy rain, all the while trying to lift a much older and larger woman. It took both of us to get the job done, and by that time all of us were soaked and muddy.
To be sure, some are adapting the donated chairs to counter the weather, but these efforts do not solve the condition of the surfaces over which the users must travel.
The fixes to these realities are fairly obvious, but are they simple? What will the solutions require and where is the motivation to make them? We’ll explore these topics in upcoming editions.