Debra Brown is a Rotarian from Spanish Town, Jamaica in Rotary District 7020. She worked for the Ministry of Agriculture as a Rural Sociologist when she was introduced to Rotary by a local member of the Spanish Town club. Fast forward to 2011 and Debra is the District 7020 Ambassadorial Scholar attending the University of Arkansas in pursuit of her PhD in Public Policy with a specialization in agriculture.
Debra was also the catalyst who inspired the Rotary Clubs of Springdale, Rogers, and Mountain Home, AR and District 6110 to sponsor and participate in the delivery of a container of 280 brand new wheelchairs, canes, crutches, walkers and seat cushions to Debra’s home district in Jamaica.
6110 District Governor Wallace Williams and his wife Anne participated in the humanitarian mission to Jamaica. “Our goal as Rotarians is to make people’s lives better and make a difference throughout the world,” said DG Wallace. “This is my second trip participating in the wheelchair distributions and Anne’s first.We both are very touched by the ability to help the less fortunate and make entire families happy in person, meeting the people, shaking their hands and letting them know we care about them. It is a very moving experience.”
The first day of wheelchair distributions was at the Spanish Town Infirmary and a local retirement center. The Wheelchair Coordinator for District 7020 is Lloyd Eubank-Green of the Rotary Club of St. Andrews.At the Spanish Town Infirmary, Lloyd said, “Without wheelchairs, these people would be locked up in a room, in darkness.And with wheelchairs, they will be moved into the light, with dignity!” Lloyd continued, “At any time we have a waiting list of over 250 people who need wheelchairs but cannot afford one, so your gift is having an enormous impact on many lives.”
Debra Brown was very touched to participate in the project she helped inspire and commented, “There is a great need for mobility devices to get people moving and give them some semblance of independence. I wish the visiting 6110 Rotarians could stay long enough to really see the true long term impact their efforts and kindness is going to be having on the lives of the recipients. These wheelchairs are really, really valuable to them and they appreciate it so much.”
Noel Morris has been the driving force behind the Springdale wheelchair program since 2002. In that time, the Rotary Club of Springdale and District 6110 have sponsored the delivery of more than 7,500 wheelchairs around the world. This represents the largest and most continuous participation in the wheelchair delivery program of any Rotary Club and District in the world. Noel and his wife Sandy participated in their 9th consecutive wheelchair distribution trip this year to Jamaica and always come away with new, touching experiences.
The second day of distributions started with a visit to a small nursing home run by a dedicated, spiritual woman named Melba Williams and her family. Noel Morris said, “This was one of the cleanest nursing homes we have ever seen, and the people were extremely needy. Mrs. Williams and her family prayed for a miracle that morning and then we got word they were in need of some wheelchairs and walkers.We made that our first stop and she was convinced we were the answer to their prayers.It is quite an amazing feeling to be told you were the miracle they had prayed for.” Mrs. Williams said, “If it was not the Lord’s will, you would not have been here this morning. We thank you so much and we love you.”
After a ride of more than an hour on extremely rough roads into the mountains above Montego Bay, the team delivered a wheelchair to a grandmother who could now join her family on the front porch of their house for the first time in years. The woman’s grandson spoke and said, “We thank you so much for your gift today, and we will pray and ask God to bless your organization, so as you reach out to others, humanity will be blessed.”
As local social workers visited the homes of people they knew were in need of mobility assistance, Myra Morris was told she would be receiving her first wheelchair from the Rotarians in Arkansas. Myra suffered a stroke in 1967 and has walked with difficulty using a cane for the past 44 years.Upon hearing the news, she told the social worker that her friend Geraldine who lived down the hill needed a wheelchair more than her, so it was ok to give her the wheelchair. This type of generosity is typical of the people in Jamaica who do what they can to help their neighbors. Myra and Geraldine both got wheelchairs.
We visited Geraldine who had been confined to her bed for the past eight years and was only able to go to church if her son could carry her up the hill to the road, get a ride in a neighbor’s car and then, be carried into church. After being seated in her new wheelchair and meeting all of the visiting Rotarians, she spontaneously broke out into shouts of thanks and praise yelling, “Glory, glory, hallelujah, hallelujah, glory, glory.” Debra Brown commented, “You could feel eight years of stress, immobility and pain being lifted from her immediately with the gift of the wheelchair.”
Later in the afternoon the group visited the West Haven orphanage for special needs children. Every visitor was soon being greeted, hugged and holding hands with the 80 children who live at the facility. It was a very heart warming and emotional experience.
As Spanish Town Rotarian Michael Terrelonge so eloquently said at the end of his interview for the Jamaica mission video, “Thank you 6110, give God glory for how He has worked through you!”
The American Wheelchair Mission thanks the Rotarians of District 6110 for your commitment to Service Above Self, and answering the prayers of our brothers and sisters in need.