Friends in Common: the New Wheelchair Program in Nogales
In my conversations with Dr. Leslie Boyer of the Viper Project in Tucson, she asked what projects I was currently active in. Among other things, I told her about the wheelchair workshop in Duranguito, Sinaloa, Mexico, where a team of disabled persons makes custom-designed wheelchairs for disabled children. On hearing this, Dr. Boyer asked if by any chance I knew Dr. Burris Duncan in Phoenix, Arizona.
I told her yes. For years I have been in communication with Burris—better known as Duke—about the fledgling community-based disability equipment program he started in Nogales, Mexico.
Indeed, the Nogales program—called ARSOBO (for ARizona SOnora BOrder)—was to some extent modeled after the PROJIMO programs in Sinaloa, Mexico, with which I have been deeply involved. (“PROJIMO” in Spanish stands for “Program of Rehabilitation Organized by Disabled Youth of Western Mexico.”) Not only was ARSOBO to a large extent inspired by the PROJIMO wheelchair workshop in Duranguito, Sinaloa, but ARSOBO’s master wheelchair builder is Gabriel Zepeda, a paraplegic craftsperson who for years was director of the PROJIMO Duranguito wheelchair shop.
“But how do you know Duke Duncan?” I asked Dr. Boyer, astounded she knew of the Nogales program.
She told me that long ago when she was in high school, she had joined Amigos de las Americas, a youth service program in which teenage volunteers from the U.S. spend their summer vacation somewhere in Latin America, where they live with a local family and help out in a community health or development project. As it happened, she told me, Leslie Boyer’s counselor for her Amigos summer project in Honduras was none other than Duke Duncan. Indeed it was Dr. Duncan who had introduced Leslie and the other volunteers to my book Donde No Hay Doctor. … Small world!
As chance would have it, this November, 2015 — just a few weeks after Dr. Boyer and I began to communicate—at the invitation of Duke and Gabriel Duke, I had a trip planned to visit ARSOBO. I would be accompanied by two wheelchair builders from PROJIMO Duranguito. So plans were made for Dr. Boyer and a group of her students from Tucson to come meet with us there in Nogales.
Serendipitously, this whole chain of events began because I didn’t know how to spell Dr. Stahnke’s name!
In our next newsletter we will give an account of our recent visit to ARSOBO in Nogales, and the wheelchair workshop there run by Gabriel Zepeda, the original leader of the PROJIMO children’s wheelchair workshop in Duranguito, Sinaloa, with which HealthWrights is closely involved.