Living Hope Wheelchair Association

Living Hope Wheelchair Association

Spinal cord injuries are devastating, frightening, life-changing events for the people who incur them and the families who help them regain a semblance of independence. They are also extraordinarily expensive, take a disproportionate toll on low-income immigrants and effectively exclude thousands of people from employment opportunities. A group of immigrant workers who call themselves Living Hope Wheelchair Association came together in Houston in 2005 after the local hospital district stopped providing medical supplies to people with irregular immigration status.

Living Hope’s mission is to improve access to services, promote their rights, and gain visibility, independence, mobility, and equality. The members suffered spinal cord injuries as a result of work and car accidents or crimes.

Abundio, a robust 25-year-old, was rear-ended in his truck on the way to work as a painter. When he awoke in a hospital three months later, he could barely move. Abundio’s spinal cord injury was so severe, doctors suspected he might be a quadriplegic. With intensive therapy and sheer determination, Abundio now has a degree of independence, gets around town in a manual wheelchair and municipal buses, plays rugby at an adaptive public gym, and is attending classes toward his general education diploma. He hopes to become a translator.

Abundio says a visit from a woman with the Living Hope Wheelchair Association made all the difference. “She brought me medical supplies, and helped me to not be scared about going out in public in a wheelchair. She showed me my life was not over.”

Living Hope works other local groups to promote legislative reform to benefit immigrants with disabilities and those who are victims of crime. It also supports efforts to prevent workplace accidents and strengthen workers’ rights. At the same time, Living Hope pushes for access to quality medical care and public transportation. Amazingly, Living Hope has no paid, full-time staff.

Living Hope helps its members and their families overcome the isolation imposed by their injuries, immigration status, and poverty. Working closely with Catholic parish partners, Living Hope affirms human dignity and celebrates the resilience of the human spirit in a broken body, as well as the solidarity of families and communities that come together as a result.

The Catholic Campaign for Human Development has supported Living Hope Wheelchair Association to build its organizational structure, provide stipends for trainers, develop leadership, and work for the rights of immigrants with disabilities.

This post is also available in: Spanish