Does Your Mindset Say Yes? By Augie Byllott.

Meet Jojo.  He lives in Gingook Bay on the Island of Mindanao in the Philippines.  He suffers muscular dystrophy in his lower extremities.  The condition has left him unable to walk.

We met in 2023 when Chair the Love presented him a new wheelchair.  He was one of over 200 people to receive a wheelchair during that trip. For many it was their first.  His chair was in really bad condition, and he was grateful to receive a brand-new one.  I learned that he was married and had a one-year-old son.

This family survives on very little.  It is a miracle they survive at all.  There is not much of a social safety net in the Philippines nor much of the rest of the non-western world.  Extreme poverty and malnutrition are common in Mindanao.

Jojo and I connect Facebook, and we communicate periodically.  Sometimes his posts reflect his frustration with his many life challenges.  Who can blame him?  With his disability, life is hard, every day.  Other times he’s pretty inspiring.  He has dreams and goals that he’s willing to work towards..

A couple of months ago I saw a photo he posted and he wasn’t using the wheelchair we provided him.  At first, I was a little angry with him.  Why wasn’t he using the brand new wheelchair we provided him?  He told me he had given it to his father because of his father’s advancing diabetes, he could no longer walk and Jojo was once again using his old, battered wheelchair.

A week after this exchange, the cross brace under that old chair cracked.  It looked to be beyond repair.  Jojo’s old chair was shot, and he was stressed because he had recently started working on his dream.  He started a business, selling fruit salad, candy, lumpia, and water from a Styrofoam cooler which sat on his lap as he rolled up and down the streets of Gingook Bay.

Now, without a wheelchair, he was in a tough spot, unable to earn a living, meager as it was.  In my own frustration, I suggested he had given the wrong chair to his elderly father who is no longer able to work.  Honestly, I was a little disappointed in Jojo because the chairs we provide are only intended for the recipient.  I told him Chair the Love was coming back in January 2025, and he would likely have to wait for a new wheelchair.

Feeling guilty by my lack of compassion and not knowing if I could help, I realized had to try.  I asked what size chair he needed?  He needed a 16” wheelchair.  I contacted our Rotary Club partners in Gingook Bay to inquire if any of the 280 chairs we brought last year remained unassigned.  They had only two 14” wheelchairs and that was it.

When I told Jojo, he said he could make the smaller chair work and within a few days the Rotary Club president, delivered the chair to Jojo.  I’m grateful to our Rotarian friends for their rapid response and willingness to act quickly to restore Jojo’s mobility.  We’ll exchange his chair for the correct size in January and then redeploy the one he is using.

Jojo is now back out there on the streets of Gingook Bay.  He’s even promoting his business on Facebook with the page Wheelchair Vendor.  His long-term goal is to open a small food store one day.  Who knows?  With determination and the right attitude, he just might do it!

I am constantly amazed at how small the world becomes when we are willing to reach out in a spirit of partnership and collaboration to serve others.  Special thanks to our partners in the Rotary Club of Gingook Bay for their kind assistance.  Jojo loves his wife and little son.  Every day, he demonstrates this by example and models the fact that with the right mindset, you can overcome many challenges.

You have the power to assist individuals like Jojo in reclaiming their independence and ability to move freely. Take action now by clicking the button to contribute a wheelchair donation.

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