To establish wheelchair repair centers in developing nations as places
of ongoing ministry to the disabled. We desire to train up persons
with disabilites to repair and distribute the wheelchairs with help
local churches and charities.
In the past, we have worked to establish such centers in Honduras and Bolivia. From 2000 through the present, we have helped establish The Wheelchair Project in Chaing Mai, Thailand.
The concept of Wheels of Hope began in 1988 when Christian missionaries, Mark and Sandy Richard, saw a Mayan woman crawling across the Pan American Highway in the pouring rain. Mark and Sandy promised they would get her a wheelchair during their next trip to the United States. One year later, Mark and Sandy returned with over fifteen wheelchairs and wheelchair parts for Macaria and others with disabilities in Guatemala.
Over the course of the next five years, Mark established a wheelchair refurbishing center near Alliance, Ohio, and continued distributing wheelchairs in Guatemala and Mexico. In 1993, Mark joined with Joni and Friends to direct the newly formed program, Wheels for the World. Joni and Friends quickly expanded the scope of distribution from Mark's base in Latin America to Ghana, Africa and Eastern Europe.
In November 1994, Mark moved the facility to its present location in Canton, Ohio. One month later, Mark left Ohio to establish a second Wheels for the World refurbishing center in Iowa, in conjunction with Hope Haven International Ministries. (Mark's path eventually took him back to Guatemala where he started Beeline Wheelchairs.)
In January 1995, Joni and Friends hired a new Ohio supervisor for the Canton refurbishing center, Patrick Rimke. Patrick had volunteered for Mark since 1989 as a wheelchair seating technician to recondition wheelchairs in Alliance, and fit free wheelchairs to recipients in Guatemala in 1992. Growth in Ohio slowly continued until January of 1997, when Joni and Friends began a program to refurbish wheelchairs in western U.S. prisons, and ended its financial commitment to the Ohio facility.
However, due to the overwhelming support of its volunteers and donors, the facility was reopened in July 1997 as an independent organization under a new name: Wheels of Hope. Groups and individuals have continued to donate wheelchairs since that time, with Wheels of Hope distributing those wheelchairs and other mobility aids to the needy in developing countries where such mobility equipment is very hard to come by, especially for the poorest people.
Wheels of Hope was incorporated as a 501 (c) 3 tax-exempt non-profit in November 1997 and continues its work of wheelchair reconditioning, wheelchair repairs and distribution.
Wheels of Hope is always seeking those who have been touched with compassion for the needy and who desire to be involved in the ministry through financial or physical donations, prayer support and volunteerism.
"Wheels of Hope is our first and most loyal partner to date. It is through their efforts that the Wheelchair Project is able to exist today and we will forever be indebted to the efforts from Patrick Rimke and his team. During the 17 years of partnership we have been blessed to receive 22 containers ... nearly 3000 wheelchairs as well as ... innumerable ... mobility aids. Their efforts enable us to serve the people of Thailand who need help.
"Without the efforts of partners like Wheels of Hope and the service they provide, our project and the work we do would be impossible. Their work has directly improved the lives of countless individuals that have come to us for help. We, here at the Wheelchair Project, look forward to many more years of working alongside Wheels of Hope to bring assistance to them that need it.""
From the RICD Wheelchair Project, Thailand 2016 Annual Report