Every day millions of people walk from place to place, taking for granted the freedom of mobility without assistance. For many people with disabilities, that is not the case. And for people with disabilities in underdeveloped countries, wheelchair mobility is expensive and difficult to obtain.

The Wheelchair Foundation, a nonprofit founded in Danville, California, in 2001 raised funds and partnered with global and local nonprofits to aid people with disabilities who do not have access to
needed resources.

“They do something pragmatic, they give wheelchairs to people,” Cal Poly’s Wheelchair Foundation advisor and sociology professor Ryan Alaniz said. “People are relegated to their home, because they know they can’t get around anywhere. So an organization here at Cal Poly [can] facilitate more opportunities in their life.”

The Foundation was introduced to Cal Poly and inspired an ongoing senior project that has lasted nearly a decade. Cal Poly alumni Joshua Burroughs was a member of the senior project in 2008 and went on to found the Silicon Valley Wheelchair Foundation chapter.

“Every time I go [to deliver wheelchairs], and this is why I keep going, it kind of reset[s] my year and allows me to be thankful for everything we take for granted in the United States, all the infrastructure and healthcare, and access to wheelchairs that we have here,” Burroughs said.

The Cal Poly Wheelchair Foundation now

Years after the senior project was retired, Burroughs’ family friend, anthropology geography sophomore Lindsey Arrillaga, decided to bring back the student chapter this spring quarter as a club.

“I just fell in love [with the Wheelchair Foundation] and I was like, ‘This is something I have to do,’ and started from there,” Arrillaga said.

Her goal is to raise $16,500 by September 2017. The money will be used to order 150 wheelchairs for people with disabilities in Cambodia. Since the production of the wheelchairs takes roughly six months, Arrillaga plans to deliver the wheelchairs during summer 2018.

“I was so drawn to this organization [because] dollar for dollar everything raised goes directly to the purchase of the wheelchair; there is no middlemen, there are no employees or staff,” Arrillaga said. “So you know if you donate $150 that you put a person in a wheelchair.”

As of now, the club is one-third of the way to reaching their monetary goal and will continue to fundraise throughout the summer. The organizationnot only uses every dollar it’s given for wheelchairs, but it also makes an effort to work with the local nonprofits of the towns they help. By doing so,

Alaniz said, the organization is able to understand the needs of the people they are serving and get familiar with the culture, unlike many other abroad programs.

“Language barriers aside, the universal language is smiles,” Burroughs said. “And it is all smiles when you deliver these wheelchairs, it really is
life-changing.”

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *