ALEM is a remarkable story about an extraordinary circle of young men and women with disabilities. Through an unlikely, remarkable and truly wonderful story, twelve young men and women with disabilities have become a production team who design and fabricate specialty wheelchairs and provide much-needed wheelchair repair service; a program in Mexico known as “Enchúlame la Silla” or Jazz my Chair.
A L E M
Enchúlame la Silla
ALEM began as a vocational training program for People with Disabilities in 2007. Though this initiative in itself was unsuccessful for job placement, due to the lack of accessible public transit and resistance of employers in Cuernavaca, people saw wheelchairs and saw a fully equipped shop and began to ask if we could repair their wheelchairs. So, we became a vocational training center and productive facility repairing all types of wheelchairs.
Local Rotary clubs and Rotary International became an important partner allowing us to use their vast network of Rotary Clubs making our desperately needed wheelchair repair service accessible to people across central Mexico. Later the Rotary foundation offered us grants for additional training, and to help purchase a utility trailer outfitted with all the necessary tools, equipment and a modest amount of parts and supplies. We now offer regular service in 5 states of Mexico. And in this process, the ALEM team challenges people’s unexamined assumptions about what people with disabilities can and cannot do. In 2016 Rotary International named four projects they support around the world – and ALEM was given that recognition.
* In 2013 we repaired 350 wheelchairs in the whole year – now we are repairing 3,500 wheelchairs each and every year!! And that will grow as our expansion in Mexico City continues.
* The 12 technicians with disabilities who repair the chairs now have full-time, fair wage employment.
* Working in highly visible public areas; we realized that by having People with Disabilities, their family members and the general public see others with disabilities carrying out skilled work has a profound, life-changing impact on the future opportunities of all People with Disabilities.
* It is worth mentioning the positive ecological effect of the program as well: “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” many of the wheelchairs repaired would have ended up in the trash.
* The wheelchairs are not only repaired, but customized and fitting both to the special needs of each user, as well as to their personal esthetic preferences. As they say, the wheelchair is an extension of their identity.
cost effectivity and shared responsibility
The ALEM Team
Magdalena Solano – Executive Director
Liliana Martínez – Shop manager
Oswaldo Flores – Technical assistant and bus operator
Federico Espinoza – Day driver
Irene Martinez – Upholstery manager
Juan de Dios Valdez – Upholstery assistant
Daniel Espinoza – Tool specialist
Maria Guadalupe Montiel – Inventory manager
Vicente Serrano – Technician
Maria Isabel Nava – Technician
Roselina Roman – Technician and Welder
Diana Laura Espinoza – Technician