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West Michigan non-profit making mobility possible for kids across the world

Mobility Worldwide West Michigan is run entirely by volunteers. They send 750 mobility carts to developing countries every year.

HOLLAND, Mich. — A group of dedicated retirees in Holland, Michigan is bringing positive change all around the world, one child at a time.

Mobility Worldwide West Michigan is one of 24 chapters of Mobility Worldwide, an organization dedicated to giving leg disabled children in developing countries the chance to move at their own pace.

Dale Dykema has been a volunteer with the organization for 14 years. He's a supervisor on Tuesdays, but he's helped all around the shop in his time. From cutting wood, drilling holes, joining or painting, he calls the whole process 'volunteer proof', simple enough for anyone to jump in and help. 

One of his volunteers on Tuesdays is a blind man, and Dykema believes truly anyone can help in their mission.

"It allows me to help participate in changing a life in the same way my son’s life changed because of the technology that’s available to him," Dykema said. His son is Quadriplegic, and has a successful career as a graphic designer. The resources that let his son flourish aren't available to the children Mobility Worldwide aim to help. 

"They don’t have any disability act. In fact children with disabilities are often seen as a curse, and are hidden away," Dykema said. 

The organization tries to cater more to children in rural areas of developing countries who otherwise would not have access to adaptive equipment. He's taken part in a few of the cart deliveries over the years and says there's nothing like seeing that lifechanging moment.

"From that day until we gave him the cart he could never move unless his parents carried him. They didn’t even have a little red wagon," Dykema said of one delivery he'll never forget. He asked the translator to share his son's disability with the child's father - creating an instant bond. "I stopped being a rich American and became a father like him."

Dykema says the carts grant children independence. They can get themselves to school, to get around without the assistance from others, as well as allowing their parents the freedom of being their child's sole form of mobility.

In an average year, they send out 750 carts. Since the chapter was established, they have delivered to 80 countries around the world. They partner with organizations in each country to identify children in need and get the devices to their recipients. 

During the pandemic, the organization shut down, losing three quarters of a years worth of productive time. Dykema says they could have created 500 carts in that time, but safety concerns meant the shut down was non-negotiable. Now that they are back in rhythm, they are in need of volunteers.

Anyone can join, but most of their staff are retiree's. They are specifically in need of trained welders and people with office skills to help with operations, but every station can take extra hands. To get involved, or to donate, click here.

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