Jaclyn went on her first wheelchair distribution trip five years ago, and has traveled annually with Hope Haven International every year since. The physical therapist from Le Mars, Iowa, says her simple mission is to give people their freedom. “Many of the people we serve on our trips have spent most of their hours and days in their beds. The wheelchairs give people mobility, and that means freedom.”
Jaclyn admits her training as a physical therapist is beneficial, but emphasizes how much she also learns from others on the trips. Her parents accompanied her on the distribution trip to Israel, but only after she convinced them they didn’t need to have her specific skills. “I always told my dad, as long as you can use tools, unload boxes, or talk to kids, we can find a use for you,” she says.
One of her favorite memories comes from her second trip to Romania, where she bonded with a wheelchair recipient over a shared love of crocheting. “We didn’t speak the same language, and she was much older than me, but we just hit it off,” she explains. When Jaclyn returned the next year, she had a gift for the woman. “I sewed a blanket for her, and this time when I found her, she was still crocheting, but she was moving around in her new wheelchair instead of sitting in her bed.”