Where We Work
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Richard Stepan of Wheelchair Angeles made his first trip to Israel and the West Bank in 2003 Volunteering with a local NGO distributing wheelchairs. It was on this trip Richard received his calling to serve in this part of the world. Many trips followed and in 2011 Richard moved to Israel to begin his work volunteering with Lifegate Rehabilitation heading up Lifegate’s Helping Aids program.
Today the program has expanded to include not only the West Bank, Palestinian Authorities but many other countries in the neighboring middle east region.
Wheelchair Angels International works to obtain maximum use of their resources to improve the quality of life for the children and adults in the West Bank serving their needs with specialized wheelchairs and related adaptive equipment including standing devices and gait trainers. Home care equipment such as hospital beds, commodes and crutches are also provided. All at no charge to the user.
Wheelchair Angels partners with Lifegate Rehabilitation Center in Beit Jala/Bethlehem. It is here Wheelchair Angels utilizes its manufacturing and referral headquarters. Trained local technicians work side by side with Wheelchair Angels specialist Richard Stepan to provide fifty years of expertise in producing specialized equipment needs.
Lifegate is the only facility in the West Bank that provides a full comprehensive educational and vocational training program for physically and mentally challenged students serving the entire West Bank. Preschool and elementary education serves approximately ninety children. Wheelchair Angels provides these children with their specialized wheelchairs, walkers, and standing devices (specially fit for each student). Lifegate’s vocational training program has an enrollment of thirty young adults training in different vocations i.e.; blacksmith, shoe repair, ceramics, weaving, carpentry, wood carving, sewing, computer science, wheelchair repair and more. Wheelchair Angels assist these students with their specialized wheelchairs and custom modified class room chairs. Referrals come from many facilities throughout the West Bank including pediatric hospitals and clinics and many medical type service NGOs. Wheelchair Angels also lectures university physical/occupational therapist students on wheelchair fitting and wheelchair maintenance.
Wheelchair Angels has provided free wheelchairs to approximately 1,200 children and adults in the West Bank. Wheelchair Angels has volunteered with other NGOs providing support for wheelchair distributions. In the past five years Wheelchair Angels has traveled the West Bank and neighboring countries (Kurdistan, Egypt, Jordan) helping deliver and fit over 2500 wheelchairs.
"And the need for wheelchairs continues."Back to Map
Prior to Wheelchair Angels International calling to the Middle East region Richard Stepan (Wheelchair Angels cofounder) had made several trips to Jordan to volunteer with wheelchair distributions. Many relationships were made and so when Wheelchair Angels International moved to the Middle East Richard was once again contacted and asked to help out.
For the past five years Wheelchair Angels International has sent Richard from Israel to Jordan to help local NGOs fit and deliver hundreds of wheelchairs to children and adults. Many of these recipients are refugees from Jordan’s neighboring countries (Syria, Iraq and The Palestinian Authorities). It’s unclear to the exact number but refugees in Jordan clearly number in the millions. Local NGOs greatly appreciate the volunteer help from Wheelchair Angels International, not only in fitting the wheelchairs but the training programs (fitting and maintenance) they receive.
In the fall of 2015 Wheelchair Angels International sent their Team of five from the Palestinian Authorities to Amman, Jordan to help distribute seven hundred wheelchairs. In addition to this team Wheelchair Angels International’s Board of Directors flew from America to Amman to assist in the distribution. In addition to the local NGO in charge and their team this made up an amazing super team. Fourteen bodies and 28 loving hands from Wheelchair Angels set out to distribute and fit needy kids and adults.
2100 wheelchairs fit to children and adults Seven years of volunteer service to the Jordanian disabledBack to Map
Wheelchair Angels targets countries where the needs of non-ambulatory children are not being met—at least satisfactorily. In early 2014, Wheelchair Angels was approached by an NGO requesting help for a wheelchair training/distribution in El Minya, Egypt. Having previously volunteered in other countries with this NGO, Wheelchair Angels decided to send their Team from the West Bank, Palestinian Authorities to Egypt. Richard Stepan and Nicolas Zeidan arrived in Cairo to meet their new Egyptian friends and drive the three hour trip to El Minya (which by the way took 6 hours) driving all night. El Minya sets in the southern central part on Egypt located on the Nile River. There are many issues facing the people of this region and security is very tight but the NGO took great care to ensure our safety.
The Wheelchair Angels team began its work by sorting several hundred wheelchairs for seven days of distributing and fitting the chairs to children as well as adults. The distribution was outdoors -- directly on the banks of the Nile River. As the people came by car and on foot we could not help but remember and sing the old gospel song “Shall We Gather At The River.” The El Minyan people were gracious and so grateful for the help Wheelchair Angels provided. Our team also spent one full day educating local persons on how to adjust and repair wheelchairs, then left a complete set of necessary tools and spare parts to help in the process.
Before Wheelchair Angels left El Minya, the local group took team members to an empty lot which is their early beginning of an office and clinic to be built to serve the medical needs of these very poor people. They were proud to share their dream. They also blessed us with home visits to families with children and the elderly. Some had only a piece of bread to eat but gave thanks for having just that.
They wait eagerly and prayerfully for the Wheelchairs team to return.
And hence, our call to the Littlest Angels in this area of the world.Back to Map
In 2012, Wheelchair Angels representative (Richard Stepan) traveled from Israel to Kurdistan to volunteer with the Kurdistan wheelchair distribution. Helping local representatives and several International NGOs, two hundred wheelchairs were individually fit and delivered to needy children in the village of Halabjai, Kurdistan (northern Iraq). You may recall that in 1989 Halabja was the city bombed by Sadam Hussein and others with poisonous gas and bombs. More than 5,000 residents were immediately killed.
Some of the children seen for wheelchairs were directly affected by this chemical genocide. The local program director (Sarko) himself was one of the survivors. He was returning from school when a bomb hit the bus he was riding in and killed all thirty children and the driver -- except for Sarko. Sarko lost both of his legs above the knee and temporarily, his vision. His mother, father, and siblings were also all killed.
Sarko spent the next two years in a local rehabilitation hospital and now dedicates his time to serving the needy children of his village. One such way is helping disabled kids get wheelchairs. We were glad to be part of his effort. Wheelchair Angel's team leader, Richard, made a second trip to Halabja in 2013 and helped fit another one hundred wheelchairs. Total wheelchairs provided? Two-hundred.
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