even simple responses to a community need
can develop into something much larger than ever imagined!
In our case, the (simple) idea of helping disabled children in the West Bank, Palestinian Authorities was birthed shortly after Richard Stepan returned to the states following a wheelchair distribution trip to the West Bank, Palestinian Authorities. Being out of the U.S. wasn’t unusual for Richard who had spent many years volunteering with distributing wheelchairs in many parts of the world. It was in this region however, that something happened to him that hadn’t in any other of his travels.
Richard discovered his true calling—“giving and showing love for a part of the world that sometimes doesn’t get a lot of love.”
- Taking his calling one step further, Stepan thereafter moved to Israel where he still resides as a full time unpaid representative of Wheelchair Angels International in charge of its Middle East operations.
- In 2009, the new organization’s goal was to take one hundred wheelchairs to the West Bank, Palestinian Authorities. Through its efforts to contact therapists in the West Bank, Palestinian Authorities, the team identified a need far greater than imagined. In fact, since its launch, Wheelchair Angels has purchased and distributed more than 1,200 wheelchairs and has played a central part in distributing an additional 2,200 chairs. During each of its distributions, WCAI representatives also provided crutches, canes, commodes, walkers, and other clinical rehab equipment.
- Richard’s expertise has enabled the organization to perfect the uniqueness of its brand, i.e., “fitting” chairs to individual needs. He also actively recruits and trains local therapists to assist with the organization’s services to non-ambulatory children—its Littlest Angels.
Recognizing that mobility requires so much more than a wheelchair alone can provide, Stepan, therapists, and trainees have developed close working relationships with local organizations most notably of which is Lifegate Rehabilitation, Beit Jala, Palestinian Authorities. In the Lifegate relationship, Wheelchair Angels helps children gain customized mobility while Lifegate Rehab staff connects each child with additional education, therapy, and skills training services.
And so six individuals, all of who currently sit on its Board, now run a nonprofit that is “making a difference for hundreds of families (and thousands of individuals) in the Middle East, including Syrian refugees currently taking shelter in the neighboring country of Jordan.” (Independent Record, Helena MT, 10/28/15).
(Every year at their own cost, Wheelchair Angels representatives travel to West Bank,
Palestinian Authorities to assemble wheelchairs and fit each to a precious child.)