, June 2, 2011—Next week, Don Schoendorfer, a local man-with-a-mission and founder of Free Wheelchair Mission
based in Irvine, CA, will travel to Zambia with World Vision
to launch a 12-country distribution of custom-fit wheelchairs to benefit people with disabilities in the developing world.
Schoendorfer intentionally built his wheelchairs using components and parts commonly available in developing countries. Weldable steel frames, bicycle-sized tires, and common metric bearings make up some of the user-friendly components of the design.
He will travel to Zambia with World Vision
and three doctoral candidates from Azusa Pacific University next week to launch the distribution program. In Zambia, the team will custom-fit the wheelchairs to each recipient as well as train World Vision’s network of caregivers to build and adjust the chairs. In addition, the team will film a training video that will be used for future in-country distributions.
Founded in 2001, Free Wheelchair Mission
(FWM) began with a humble prototype that was produced and distributed for a fraction of the cost of a new wheelchair in the U.S. Since then, FWM has given away over 560,000 wheelchairs in the developing world.
“We’ve given away 560,000 wheelchairs,” said founder Schoendorfer, “but the need is much greater. There are still 100 million people who need them and don’t have access.”
After spending time in the developing countries where the wheelchairs are distributed, Schoendorfer realized his original design, while effective and budget-priced at under $60 per chair, wasn’t the best product for smaller children. He returned to LA, and back to the drawing board, enlisting the consulting expertise of Dr. Susan Shore of Azusa Pacific University, who oversees a Doctoral Physical Therapy program. Under the recommendations of Dr. Shore, Schoendorfer designed the GEN_2 chair, a fully adjustable, customized-to-fit model.
World Vision, who works in almost 100 countries, focusing on interventions for children and families living in poverty, was encouraged by the GEN_2 wheelchair, especially appropriate for children in both rural and urban areas.
“We are so encouraged by the fact that Don Schoendorfer went back to the drawing board, and re-designed a chair that especially meets the needs of the children we serve,” said John Jensen, World Vision’s director of key partnerships. “Although the GEN_1 chair works in many areas around the world, the GEN_2 chair is more robust and adjustable. It opens up a new opportunity for children and adults who previously were not candidates for these wheelchairs.”
Don Schoendorfer is available for interviews before he leaves for Zambia on June 7th. To schedule an interview or request b-roll of the distribution launch in Zambia please call Christine Connolly Bell at (323) 208-2444.About World VisionWorld Vision is a Christian humanitarian organization dedicated to working with children, families, and their communities worldwide reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty and injustice. We serve the world's poor -- regardless of religion, race, ethnicity or gender. For more information on their efforts, visit WorldVision.org/press or follow them on Twitter at @WorldVisionNews