A Journey of Transformation

Deep in the heart of war-torn Cambodia, there is a workshop on the side of humble church where people whose bodies were scarred by war make wooden wheelchairs and give them away -- for free -- to men and women whose bodies were ravaged by landmines. These explosives were set throughout the countryside during the Khmer Rouge era (1975-79) under the brutal dictatorship of Pol Pot who directed devastating violence towards his own people.

After the communist regime was toppled, impoverished Cambodians were left with deep emotional scars along with millions of landmines that dot the lush landscape. These bombs are cheap and easy to plant and very difficult and expensive to dig up.

It was against this backdrop that a missionary order began distributing wheelchairs to people across the countryside. One of those missionary "deliverymen" is now Bishop Enrique "Quique" Figaredo. He feels that his life's transformational journey began when he was assigned to work with Cambodian refugees on the border with Thailand in 1985. He says, "I became deeply involved with the lives of the people... and so many things made me fall in love with them."

His story is a testament to the profound difference that can be made in people's lives when faith meets action.

Now, affectionately called the "Bishop of the Wheelchairs," Bishop Quique started a workshop where wheelchairs are constructed from wood and scraps. "These wheelchairs ... transform the lives of people who move from a dim life, locked in their homes, to being able to study, leave their homes, have a social life," Bishop Quique says. "But they also transform the life of the giver."

During the past three decades, with help from donors like YOU, they've given away more than 30,000 wheelchairs!

Today, Bishop Quique still oversees the wheelchair project, which employs eighteen people -- all of whom are amputees due to landmine injuries. Together, they build an average of 100 chairs a week.

Production of one chair costs about $150.

To celebrate Easter, go to www.propfaithboston.org to make a special donation to The Society for the Propagation of the Faith. Help us sustain this kind of transformational work all over the world.

- Maureen Crowley Heil is Director of Programs and Development for the Pontifical Mission Societies, Boston.