Posted by: Ces | November 15, 2007

Giving Hope to the Physically-challenged

by Ma. Cecilia Rodriguez

Tagoloan, Misamis Oriental

September 2007

Copyright: Mindanao Bureau, Philippine Daily Inquirer

Marlon Aying, 27, beams proudly as he shows his latest innovation. “You see, I improved the brakes so that it will grip tightly on the wheels and there’s no chance the chair will roll off,” explains Marlon, using his own chair to demonstrate what he means.

Marlon has been wheelchair-bound all his life since he succumbed to polio as an infant. Despite his disability, his family loved and supported him. He finished electrical engineering in Ateneo de Cagayan Xavier University, played guitar in a band and even put up a small business.

 

 

“But I wanted to help people that are not as lucky as I am,” says Marlon.  

At that time, American engineer Matthew McCambridge was looking for skilled and hardworking persons with disability as manpower for a factory of technologically-advanced wheelchairs. Matthew works for the Freedom Technology, Inc., a private enterprise mothered by the French humanitarian organization Handicap International (HI).

 

 

“Freedom technology makes innovative, top quality custom-built wheelchairs that will allow persons with disabilities to be productive members of their community,” says McCambridge.

 

 

“We needed technicians who will make wheelchairs according to a detailed specification unique to each of our client’s needs,” he adds. And who else can know better the needs of PWDs than those who are also with disabilities.

 

 

When Marlon knew of Freedom Technology from a friend, he was sure this was his calling. McCambridge readily hired him along with five other PWDs.

 

 

“I tell them they are here to work, no special treatment. They work just like the other regular guys here,” says McCambridge of the PWDs that he hired. “And they are amazing. They work fast, they are innovative, creative, and very hard working,” he adds.

 

 

The HI found the best place to construct the wheelchair factory in 2004 within the Phividec Estates in Tagoloan, 30 minutes from the central district of Cagayan de Oro city.

 

 

Marlon travels early to the factory everyday. “There’s no problem, my wheelchair is foldable so I can easily ride a jeepney. It’s also very dynamic as it allows me to move around freely. The wheels are sturdy,” says Marlon of his very own product.

 

 

“Like Marlon, other PWDs can also live productively by having reliable wheelchairs custom-made for his or her needs,” says Eric Velasco, HI program manager for Freedom Technology.  “What we produce here are wheelchairs that fit your lifestyle, a chair that gives you comfort but does not limit you to maximize your full potential,” he says. “That’s why our motto in HI is ‘Vivre Debout’, we give a chance to PWDs to integrate in their community by improving their mobility.”

 

 

Marlon says he takes it upon himself to test the wheelchairs first to make sure everything’s safe and sturdy. “We keep in mind that every wheelchair we make will give a new life to someone like us. That is what motivates us,” he says.

 

 

“I’m able to help others, at the same time help my family as well,” says Marlon who has to support his parents and siblings from his modest earnings.

 

 

Behind the tools and machines at his workplace in the factory, Marlon churns out an upbeat message to other PWDs: “Just don’t lose hope. There’s a life for you out there.”  


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