We Can Fix Almost Anything…!
Two women have been touched by an angel—or rather, by Wings of Angels—in the tiny rural community of Fronteras, about 30 miles south of the Arizona border. The help they received already has begun to lift them out of the poverty and limited opportunities they have faced for years. One woman was gifted a new hearing aid and the other, crippled by arthritis, received a motorized wheel chair.
The hearing aid for Myrta Teresa Rico Armenta, age 38, has enabled her to move from a factory assembly line to a new office job more compatible with her education and skills. Myrta has suffered progressive hearing loss since age 8, when she was hit by a car and dragged down the street by the vehicle, lacerating her left ear and the side of her face. At age 12, her hearing deteriorated further when she contracted meningitis.
Because Myrta wasn’t born with a hearing impairment, she didn’t have a speech impediment. Since she could read lips, too, few suspected her disability, which she worked mightily to hide because of rampant job discrimination in Mexico. Myrta worked for years as a secretary in an Agua Prieta office, struggling to save the $1,800 doctors said she needed for a hearing aid. Myrta’s hearing worsened during her employment, however. It was eventually discovered by her supervisor, who then harassed Myrta into quitting her job. When her husband lost his job shortly afterward, the two were forced to jump the border, working illegally in Willcox, Arizona, harvesting tomatoes.
But even this seasonal work evaporated when Myrta’s passport and visa were stolen during the couple’s return visit to Mexico. Without these documents, Myrta couldn’t go back to her job in Willcox. Myrta’s husband wouldn’t leave without her. He works odd jobs in Agua Prieta when he can find them, hoping something permanent will come along soon.
With no job, no income, and her hearing steadily worsening, Myrta’s future would have been bleak if her mother hadn’t fortuitously been the president of a women’s cooperative in Fronteras which was formed to create jobs in their impoverished community. The group gave Myrta a job in the town’s only factory, dismantling obsolete computers and other electronics for recycling and resale (see Myrta at http://tv.azpm.org/kuat/segments/2009/7/7/kuat).
Now that she has a new hearing aid, Myrta also has a new job. She has moved across the street from the factory to the office of the local cattlemen’s association, where she does secretarial tasks and runs the town’s internet café. Myrta can’t stop saying “thank you” for the opportunities that have opened up now that she can hear.
Compared to Myrta, opportunities for Maria del Refugio Zamora Sánchez (called “Cuquis” by her friends) were even more limited. The 59-year-old has been crippled for years with arthritis, worsening to the point where she became wheelchair-bound. Even with her twisted hands and her inability to stand, Cuquis made tamales and tortillas for sale in the local mom-and-pop stores. She also sold phone cards and Avon products to the neighbors.
Cuquis’ husband Antonino grew alfalfa in his small farm plot. He delivered his wife’s tamales and tortillas to customers when he wasn’t in the field. He also wheeled Cuquis around Fronteras from door to door so she could collect money from her Avon customers each month. Soon, however, Cuquis began needing regular trips to medical clinics in Agua Prieta to deal with her progressing arthritis. Antonino had to sell his field so he could buy a minivan for the one-hour trip up the highway with Cuquis and her wheelchair.
When Cuquis learned about the Wings of Angels clinic last month, she was praying for a motorized wheelchair so her husband wouldn’t have to push her through the streets of Fronteras. If she could get around on her own, she reasoned, Antonino would be freed up to find work. This was especially critical now that he had no field to generate the income needed to pay gasoline and maintenance bills for the minivan.
The $2,000 wheelchair Cuquis needed was beyond her economic reach. The one available at Wings of Angels was perfect for her, but it had no batteries. If Cuquis could come up with the $200 for the golf-cart-type batteries, she was told, the chair was hers. Cuquis didn’t have the money but was undeterred. Within two days, she had so moved her congressman that he paid for the batteries out of his own pocket, on the condition that she pick them up in Douglas, Arizona, where they were purchased.
Cuquis and Antonino went in their minivan and got the batteries, then showed them to the folks at the clinic. They were promptly installed in the wheelchair which the couple gratefully took back to Fronteras. The neighbors say Cuquis is rarely home now. She is always tooling around town, plying her tortillas and tamales, collecting on her Avon sales, and going to church every morning. Antonino has found odd jobs in the local cornfields and on nearby ranches. Now that Cuquis can move around independently, she can’t stop smiling. But Cuquis will tell you she doesn’t ride a wheelchair. She’s carried everywhere, she says, on Wings of Angels.