Israeli businessman launches charity to donate wheelchairs to disabled children

“The idea is not the chair itself, but the mobility and independence it enables children, without which some of them will not have any access to school, or community life.”

December 14, 2016 05:12
2 minute read.
ONE OF THE DESIGNS used to provide disabled children with durable wheelchairs for as little as $100

ONE OF THE DESIGNS used to provide disabled children with durable wheelchairs for as little as $100 each.. (photo credit: WHEELCHAIRS OF HOPE)


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Two hundred and fifty specially adjusted wheelchairs have been distributed to children in Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Syrian refugee camps by a former Israeli businessman who, with his wife, vowed to “contribute to humanity.”

Pablo Kaplan was an executive vice president at Keter Plastic for three decades before he and his wife, Eve Rothstein, decided to help disabled children under the age of nine.

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After working at Keter in Israel and Europe, and three years at a Swiss plastics company, he decided to devote his entire professional knowledge contributing to humanity. He called the project “Wheelchairs of Hope.”

After three years working on the project, the first 250 wheelchairs have arrived at their destinations.

The Wheelchair of Hope project is being assisted by Ziv Av Engineering Inc., which volunteered to develop a reliable product at a minimal cost, and by Jerusalem’s ALYN Hospital Pediatric & Adolescent Rehabilitation Center.

The Kaplans realized that millions of disabled children in the developing world lack minimal mobility because they lack a wheelchair. Twenty million children in Third World countries – a third of whom lack access to health care services or equipment – need such devices.

Distribution is headed by ALYN, and accomplished through the efforts of Beit Issie Shapiro in Ra’anana, various hospitals and others. A ceremony to launch the project was held earlier this month at ALYN, with participation of senior representatives of the World Health Organization in Geneva, the Foreign Ministry, UNICEF, the Office of the Chief Scientist of the Economics Ministry, the American aid organization USAID and rehabilitation organizations from Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

“The idea is not the chair itself, but the mobility and independence it enables children, without which some of them will not have any access to school, or community life,” Kaplan said.

To develop the optimal chair to be comfortable for children and fit harsh conditions in the Third World, Kaplan contacted a friend from his Keter days, Dr. Amir Ziv Av, who was the development manager in the company and now owns an engineering firm.

The result was a lightweight chair, strong and simple to assemble, and resistant to off-road conditions in places without infrastructure or maintenance.

The product design and preparation for production were the responsibility of the Israeli design company Nekuda DM, which contributed greatly to the success of the project.

The prototype was made with a 3D printer and costs just $100.

Ziv-Av Engineering has extensive experience in the design and development of creative accessories for the disabled which include the innovative Softwheel, and the Step-Up, a smart device that allows wheelchairs climb up and down stairs.

In addition to the chairs distributed in Israel, the PA and Syrian refugee camps, more than 600 wheelchairs will go to disabled children in Peru and Tajikistan, where acquisition was funded by a philanthropic foundation and the World Health Organization.

More organizations around the world are in advance stages of negotiations for the acquirement of the chairs, including the International Committee of the Red Cross, which seeks to distribute the chairs during emergencies and natural disasters.

Kaplan has challenged himself to distribute one million chairs over the next decade.

To do that, he is looking for a partner willing to help turn the project into a social business venture, whose entire profits go to further development and expanded distribution to more children of different ages.

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