During WEFTEC® 2016, orange-and-black tote bags given to attendees made appearances across New Orleans. Just one month after WEFTEC, these bags traveled some 4800 km (3000 mi.) south and could be seen on the backs of wheelchairs in Lima, Peru.
The Water Environment Federation (WEF; Alexandria, Va.) recently partnered with Joni and Friends International Disability Center (Agoura Hills, Calif.) to support its Wheels for the World program by donating about 200 leftover tote bags from WEFTEC 2016 and other past WEFTEC conferences. According to Robert “Bob” Paulette, a WEF member since 1974 and Wheels for the World volunteer, the tote bags “fit perfectly behind wheelchairs and walkers.”
Paulette, an engineer with Forsgren Associates Inc. (Albuquerque, N.M.), learned about Wheels for the World through his Albuquerque church group. The program refurbishes donated wheelchairs, transports them to foreign countries, and fits them for handicapped folks in need across the world.
On Oct. 28, Paulette and 24 other volunteers traveled to San Juan de Lurigancho, one of the poorest districts of Lima. That weekend, volunteer physical therapists, mechanics, translators, and support staff worked at a local church to prepare about 200 wheelchairs for mobility-impaired residents. On Oct. 31, the team commenced 4 long days of modifying wheelchairs to suit the needs of individual patients. While WEF’s first shipment of bags did not make it in time to be distributed at this event, Paulette did bring about 30 WEFTEC 2016 bags that were hung on some of the wheelchairs. The 200 other bags will be distributed at future events.
— Justin Jacques, WEF Highlights