Mission Central is proud to announce a new addition to our family of in-house ministry partners! FRIDLA (Friends of the Disabled in Latin America) has taken over warehouse space and has set up operations. Volunteer coordinator, Sandra Harding has been kind enough to share the following information about this wonderful ministry and her involvement with FRIDLA. Thank you, Sandra!
FRIDLA: FRIENDS OF THE DISABLED LATIN AMERICA
It is my privilege to volunteer for FRIDLA by collecting wheelchairs and related items for the disabled in Latin America.
I met FRIDLA’s CEO, Judy Nunez, on a short-term mission trip to Chile many years ago. She established this non-profit as a result of seeing that wheelchairs distributed to Third World countries, but not maintained in working condition, benefit no one. FRIDLA began in Santiago, Chile, in 1996. It was incorporated in the USA in 1999 and became a 501 (c) (3) in 2002. It’s purpose is to teach and reach families affected by disabilities with the love of God and the gospel.
I am pleased to work with Dean and Barbara Fahnstock to collect specific items and store them at Mission Central, until we have a sufficient amount to fill a truckload. To advertise our intent, I post fliers, contact churches, mail out letters and post cards to nursing facilities and then follow-up with phone calls. We began in January 2016 and the rented space (donated by the Outreach Commission of St. John’s Episcopal Church) is already overflowing. However, wheelchairs are the main focus of our efforts, and we need close to 50 (200 wheelchairs fill a shipping container), before FRIDLA will carry everything away to be refurbished and shipped out. After that we’ll start over with the goal of filling another truckload.
Those with special needs in Latin America are usually isolated from society, not only because they are immobile, but also because there is a stigma attached to their disability. Families are excluded from mainstream society. Adults with special needs often cannot find work. If the special need happens to an educated person as the result of an accident, that individual will most likely never be able to use his or her skills to earn a living.
A gentleman, who just graduated from college, was ready to begin work as a CPA, when he was injured by a hit and run driver. He is living the rest of his life as a paraplegic. Because he must use a wheelchair, his education and mental capacity are not valued. He makes and sells little trinkets by hand to earn money.
Buildings are not accessible to those in wheelchairs. After receiving a wheelchair for her daughter, a mother has had to quit her job in order to get her daughter and the chair to school and up the stairs of the building, where the upper grade classes meet.
FRIDLA has established itself as a nonprofit in 4 countries: Chile, Peru, Bolivia and Uruguay. FRIDLA and its partners collect most types of used durable medical equipment such as wheelchairs, walkers, crutches, etc., but it’s of no worth to give someone a wheelchair and not provide a way to maintain it. Metric tools are of no use and the terrain and daily use will eventually mean that the equipment needs repair or replacement. FRIDLA trains local technicians to maintain and repair the equipment. Those who have been blessed by the ministry often turn around and become technicians themselves.
The entire family accompanies the “patient” to appointments. This creates the perfect opportunity to present the Gospel to each family receiving assistance and to gift them with a Spanish language Bible. FRIDLA educates community and church leaders on the Biblical perspective regarding outreach to people with special needs and the importance of incorporating them into local life. Locally trained volunteers follow-up with visitations and encourage them to attend a church that will embrace them. This enables ministry to continue in the community with the ongoing support of FRIDLA.
Sharing the love of Christ is facilitated, when we are able to show that we care not only for their spiritual condition, but that we want to help improve the quality of their life, as well. As FRIDLA custom-fits them with a wheelchair and/or other mobility assistive equipment, they learn that this free service is possible, because many people, who love the Lord, donate money, time and equipment to that end.
FRIDLA has a beautiful website and Facebook page. Check us out at www.fridla.org. If you would like to contribute locally to this worthy cause, please contact me at 717-440-3691.
Perhaps you’d like to help us collect or to spread the word. We would love to have you on the FRIDLA team.