Founded by Reverend Mel West and missionary Larry Hills in 1994, Mobility Worldwide is a faith-based nonprofit organization that builds hand-powered three-wheeled mobility carts which can be used off-road. The program’s commitment is to reflect the love of God by bringing mobility and dignity to those in developing countries, and it operates solely with the help of volunteers and donations of money and materials.
It may surprise you to learn that the global organization has an affiliate right here in Phenix City, one of more than 20 in the United States. The facility, located next to Epworth United Methodist Church, is under the management of Sam Singer who retired from the Information Technology department at Auburn University. The organization has support from celebrities such as former president Jimmy Carter and boxing great Evander Holyfield. Singer has had the honor of showing Carter the carts a couple of times.
“He said, ‘Keep up the good work’,” Singer said.
Many people in developing countries who are unable to walk due to illness, disease, birth defects, or injuries, including those caused by landmines do not have access to affordable wheelchairs. Oftentimes, their only way to get around is to drag themselves across the ground or to be carried by a relative anytime they need to go anywhere. Their ability to work and provide for their families is severely limited as is their quality of life.
The World Health Organization estimates that approximately 70 million people worldwide need wheelchairs—something Americans takes for granted, however, only 5-15 percent have access. Without wheelchairs, disabled people in developing countries cannot attend school, find employment, attend church, harvest, shop, socialize, or go to the doctor. The mobility carts not only allow people to have a much more normal life, they give them pride, dignity, and confidence through the independence the carts provide.
The carts are built on a sturdy wood and steel frame and are provided free to those in need. They are propelled by a hand-crank or pull handle, not unlike an upside-down tricycle and can be easily operated by a mobility-impaired adult or child to improve life at work, school, and home; they are perfect for those without adequate upper body strength. The mobility carts have puncture-proof tires and have been designed to go where conventional wheelchairs cannot. They are ideal for indoor or outdoor use, especially in rural areas where roads are either non-existent or in poor condition. They also have a large storage compartment. Modifications can be made, like adding a wagon onto the back or a roof.
The carts are delivered at no cost in collaboration with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) who send supplies to the areas where the carts need to go. More than 60,000 carts have been distributed in more than 100 countries since the organization began.
Incorporated in 2017, the Phenix City Mobility Worldwide affiliate completed 49 chairs in 2018, 100 in 2019, and the goal for 2020 is 150 carts.
“We need to average about 15 carts per month, but due to the pandemic, we are behind,” Singer said. “We are averaging 10 carts per month.” Singer said the pandemic has “put a monkey wrench in our fund raisers.”
The affiliate is always in need of donations of money and materials as well as volunteers who are the lifeblood of the organization. Currently, the organization needs volunteers who can work from home to cut, grind, and drill mild steel; also, those who can cut, sand, and drill treated pine. Donations help purchase the solid rubber tires, each which costs about $25. The cost of a completed Mobility Cart is about $300 and takes approximately 30 man hours. To learn more, call Sam Singer at (706) 570-4507 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Their website is mobilityworldwide.org.