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Hope Haven Guatemala: Part I

Let’s take a trip about 2,500 miles south of Rock Valley, Iowa and the headquarters of Hope Haven. You’ll cross the sprawling deserts and landscapes of the south, pass by the Gulf of Mexico, and end up at a spot surrounded by volcanoes, nestled between Mexico, Belize, El Salvador, and Honduras. You’ll land in a tropical climate, in a developing country known for its coffee fields and ancient Mayan sites, with a population of more than 16 million people.

Destination: Hope Haven Guatemala – Santiago Sacatepéquez, Guatemala

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These two Hope Haven sites, Rock Valley and Santiago Sacatepéquez, are geographically separated by thousands of miles, but share the same heartbeat. The cultures, currencies, and languages may differ, but operate with a resounding similarity – a mission to spread the gospel of Christ, and to do so with the gift of a wheelchair. Isn’t that life changing?

Take a closer look, and there’s something in particular that you’ll notice at Hope Haven Guatemala. The majority of the employees who spend their days building wheelchairs and working with local governments and municipalities to coordinate distributions, are living each day in a wheelchair themselves.

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While wheelchair users experience limitations around the world, it can be especially restrictive in Guatemala, where deep rooted stigmas surrounding disabilities persist, and transportation can be less than reliable. People with disabilities can often find themselves at a disadvantage in the job market in this Central American country, but so desperately need to make a living in order to provide for their families.

It’s a common gripe in America – the work commute. But imagine a work commute while in a wheelchair, in a locale filled with slopes and ancient cobblestones and chaotic driving conditions. 

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Throughout their work day, they each bustle along to their unique routine. Some work in the office, while others assemble new parts and wheelchairs in the workshop. On distribution days, things look a little bit different…

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It’s distribution day. Buses pull up, full of people from specific villages that have been called from a lengthy queue for this very distribution. Toddlers, teenagers, grandparents, women, men – emerge out of the doors, often carried. They congregate in Hope Haven Guatemala’s designated distribution space, and are welcomed joyously by staff, greeted with exultant songs of praise, and given an introduction to the day and how the process works. At the end of the experience, they will return to the buses, and ultimately their villages, with new wheelchairs in tow. But first, let’s get to know a few people who have traveled here today…

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This is Part I of a special series on our division in Guatemala. Throughout the upcoming weeks, we’ll be spotlighting profiles and stories of Hope Haven Guatemala employees and wheelchair recipients. Part II is available now: Read more

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