Author: Salesian Missions

Publication Date: October 12, 2022

New Opportunities and Hope for Disabled Youth

In 2010, Father Jaime Reyes Ratana formed Don Bosco on Wheels to provide wheelchairs and social support to a small group of youth with disabilities in Guadalajara, Mexico. This program has become so successful that Mexico’s government extended a special invitation—to establish the first comprehensive spinal cord injury center in the country. Last month, that invitation became a reality—and friends like you are part of the story.

The new Latin American Center for Comprehensive Care for Spinal Cord Injuries opened its doors on August 16, 2022 thanks to generous individual donors and funding secured by Salesian Missions through the U.S. Agency for International Development’s American Schools and Hospitals Abroad (USAID/ASHA) program.

“I am honored, and humbled, by our role in bringing this project to fruition,” says Father Gus Baek, director of Salesian Missions. “We, our partners, and our supporters have helped strengthen local capacity and leadership so that more vulnerable young people in Mexico can realize their full potential as self-sufficient, contributing members of society.”

Nearly 9.2 million people in Mexico live with some form of disability, and the vast majority of those disabilities are mobility-related. While some progress has occurred, many challenges remain. Societal limitations to understanding, identifying and implementing effective adaptations means that far too many of these individuals experience discrimination and exclusion throughout their lives. And, because they regularly miss out on the educational and employment opportunities that their able-bodied peers enjoy, as many as 45 percent of Mexico’s disabled population lives in poverty with no way to overcome it.

By taking a holistic approach to care, the new Center aims to change this—one  patient, and one family, at a time.

In addition to being outfitted with state-of-the-art equipment including advanced rehab exercise bikes, kinesitherapy devices for upper and lower limbs, walking support, and electric standing frames, the Center also promotes new science and technology for treating, caring for, and rehabilitating patients with spinal cord injuries so they may achieve independence. Patients, family caregivers, and health care professionals alike will benefit.

Patients will also have opportunities to participate in specialized occupational therapy programs designed to help them successfully perform typical daily activities—such as cooking meals, getting in and out of bed, and maneuvering around the workplace.

The Center expects to serve 500 patients within the first four years of operation. Most will be youth and adults, ages 12-35, who live in poverty and conditions of high vulnerability. Don Bosco on Wheels will continue its active partnership with the Center, providing community outreach and transportation so that even more people can participate.

Ultimately, center administrators hope to provide physical and psychological support, preventive health services, and workforce training under one roof.

“It is true that we support disabled youth and their families,” says Aldo Chavarria, who co-founded Don Bosco on Wheels. “But society as a whole benefits from our work as well. The infinite gifts and talents of our participants enrich us all.”

Learn more about our work in Mexico.

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