There was only one request when we first met Ma Yibo and told him he’d be getting a new wheelchair as part of his experience. He wanted it to be blue, blue like the sky.
Wow! Blue!!! We love blue!!!
Ma Yibo, nine, had already decided he wanted to get his PhD in math and become a Chinese Chess Champion, all noble goals. But when asked what he liked to do for fun in his leisure time he was hard pressed to come up with an answer. Then we showed him a video of Aaron Fotheringham tooling around a skate park in his wheelchair… After a few silent moments, Yibo turned to his mum and said… “I want to do this!!!”
“Yibo was extremely shy when we first met him,” said WPW Executive Director Stuart James. ”He’d hardly put two words together and would never look you in the eye when he was speaking. That’s all changed now.”
Ma Yibo had an opportunity to meet his newfound hero Aaron Fotheringham at the skate park in Beijing later that month, and Aaron was kind enough to take Yibo around on the ramps and teach him a few tricks like jumping steps in his old bulky hospital chair.
“Unfortunately it was not possible for us to get Yibo’s new wheelchair to Beijing on time for his experience with Aaron,” said Stuart James.
His sky blue wheelchair is there now though thanks in part to the continued support from our friends at Morgan Motors Beijing, DHL-Sinotrans and other private donors who contributed to the effort.
“After Yibo’s experience at the skate park with Aaron, I guess it’s no surprise he was doing wheelies within minutes of receiving his new wheels,” said Martin Barnes – Creative Director for WPW.
Check out Yibo’s matching blue outfit highlighted by his orange shoes… There are a few models on the Inspiration section of the WPW website, maybe Yibo will be the first Chinese model on that page – He’s likely to be the only model on that page with a PhD in math and Chinese Chess Championship on his resume.
After handover wheelchair
Said from James Stuart. This morning I woke up to receive a surprise voicemail from him on WeChat – something he’s never done before. He was extremely excited. You see, after Ma’s visit with Aaron (and after his mum downloaded all the information to his father about his expereince) his parents began to fight with the local education department to allow him to go to school and it seems they won! His father, armed with videos of Aaron and information about me, made a case to the provincial government and they must have found a receptive ear. He will start integrated school in the next few weeks. He’s already been to visit.
Ma’s apparently got all sorts of newfound confidence – he’s no longer willing to be limited by the opinion of others. He’s also decided he fully intends to be the Chinese version of Aaron Fotheringham and spends most of his time these days on two wheels – much like Steve Fotheringham said Aaron did when he was younger.
This is exactly the kind of positive impact we hoped would happen with our WheelsplusWings effort. You see, it’s not just about unlocking a door for Ma Yibo. It’s everyone around him. His parents have new found pride in their son (as oppose to shame) and are willing to fight for his place in the world. The kids at the school no longer see an “invalid,” but rather a very capable classmate who just happens to be lucky enough to ride (play) in his wheelchair everywhere he goes. It doesn’t take much to think the community around him has changed their perceptions in similar fashion.
And all this does not include the 3,000+ students and parents Aaron met at the foreign schools or the couple hundred kids at the migrant school or those few children in the orphanage. I want to thank all of you again for your help in making this happen. It was wonderfully successful on our end and I hope we managed to provide some contributions to you efforts in the process.
We are also happy to announce two more chairs arrived in Beijing this week!!!
As Morgan China, we are really proud of all these things we’ve done, to be a part of it, have a chance to change children’s lives. And a sound told us, we need carry on this responsibility, to help more children to get more hope.