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United Methodist Clergyman Helps Deliver Dignity; Leads Program To Supply Mobility Devices Worldwid

 


Contact: Nancye Willis
(615) 742-5406
e-mail:
nwillis@umcom.org

July 2, 2003

COLUMBIA, Mo.— The Rev. Mel West’s PET project has nothing to do with cute little animals. The retired United Methodist clergyman conducts a serious ministry, supplying Personal Energy Transportation (PET) vehicles to people half a world away.

West founded the PET Project in 1995, in response to United Methodist missionaries’ requests for mobility vehicles—sturdy, maintainable three-wheeled hand-cranked wheelchairs. After testing several prototypes, volunteers settled on a final design to go some of the most desperate places in the world.

“The need is utterly endless,” West says. It is estimated that, in Third World countries, 20 million to 30 million people have lost the use of their legs.

(The Rev. Mel West and the PET Project are featured on “Delivering Dignity,” a UMTV video report the week of July 2. It is available at the UMTV Web site www.umtv.org.)

PETs can be found in nearly 30 countries, assisting survivors of polio and casualties of war. “With our United Methodist work in Zambia, we have more there than any place. We’ve sent them 600 by now,” says West.

The Missouri workshop placed a total of 761 last year, in countries including Congo, Mozambique, Angola, Nicaragua, Haiti, Honduras, Guatemala, Kosovo, and Ukraine. Workers hope to supply more than 1,000 this year.

Unfortunately, demand far exceeds production, but at $250 each to build and ship, it’s a small price to change a life.

“The people we distribute the PETs to are crawling around on the ground,” says Steve Baima, a PET Project volunteer. “Every one of these we produce is one more person up and mobile with a restored life and a new lease on life.”

“We’re doing the best we can one at a time to get the people up off the dirt and mud and give them dignity,” West says.

A second workshop to build PETs recently opened in Florida and another shop is setting up now in Texas. Mel West and others hope this effort will just keep growing around the world.

The PET Project is related to the United Methodist Rural Fellowship, a 60-year-old ministry serving the rural church and rural people. More information on the PET Project is available from the organization’s Web site http://www.giftofmobility.org/.

Donations to the PET Project’s Advance #982665-5 can be made through local United Methodist congregations, or directly to UMCOR by mail (475 Riverside Dr., Room 330, New York, NY 10115). Online credit-card donations may be made at http://gbgm-umc.org/umcor or by calling (800) 554-8583

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