Chetan Heyer was looking for a unique way to reach out to his homeland of Fiji and make a difference, when he realized that he could make the most impact by helping the disabled there find mobility.
That’s how he set on the idea for a nonprofit with a lofty mission, FijiWheelChairs.com. He is now urging other local Indian Americans from Fiji to join in the cause.
“I first met Mr. and Mrs. Kenneth E. Behring and family, the founders of the Wheelchair Foundation, in 2000. I have since admired the charity work that he and his family have done with the Wheelchair Foundation, [donating] over 890,000 new wheelchairs all over the world,” Heyer told India-West in an e-mail.
“When I visited my home town in the Fiji Islands in 2010, I saw that it had many people in need of wheelchairs to provide mobility, and enable them to enjoy productive lives. With the help of the Wheelchair Foundation, we raised money in 2011, to fund 110 new wheelchairs, made in China, for Fiji.
“Our goal is to also deliver a container of used wheelchairs, walking canes, walkers and crutches by Christmas 2012.”
Heyer, a financial planner based in Pleasant Hill, Calif., often works with the local Fijian Rotary Club on the project. Heyer makes a point to distribute the wheelchairs not just in the capital city of Fiji, Suva, but also in its remote outlying islands.
One Rotary leader wrote him, “As it says on the Wheelchair Foundation Web site, ‘Mobility is a fundamental human necessity, not a luxury.’ You gave 110 recipients that fundamental human necessity again, and have changed their lives. Keep up the great work and those sterling efforts; they are noted and appreciated by many.”
According to the Web site of the Fiji National Council for Disabled Persons, more than 10 percent of its populace is living with some form of disability. “People with disabilities in recent times have been largely invisible in all areas and at all levels of the development processes in Fiji. They are the most discriminated-against population group,” said a spokesperson. “The result of the cycle of poverty and disability is that people with
disabilities are usually amongst the poorest of the poor.”
An all-terrain wheelchair can cost as much as $1,700 to manufacture, which makes it unaffordable for the average Fijian.
To make a donation or for more information, visit www.fijiwheelchairs.com or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.