There was much joy and anticipation as Azima, 2011-12 Youth Exchange and Study scholar from Pakistan, arrived in her host community of Eugene, OR to begin her year as a YES ambassador. She was greeted at the airport by not only her excited host family but also the President, International Director and Admissions director of her host school.
In the days after Azima’s arrival to Eugene, her life as she knew it, as well as her newly-adopted host community, would be forever changed. Azima, who has prosthetic legs, no use of her hands and uses a wheelchair, was placed in Eugene, which is known as a hub of innovations for people with disabilities. The outreach efforts made by Azima’s host mother, Harriet, and the surrounding community have helped Azima to explore new paths and opportunities.
While visiting a local organization, Lane Independent Living Alliance, Azima shared her need for a motorized wheel chair. A donated chair housed in their office turned out to be a perfect fit and Azima was given the wheel chair as a gift from the organization.
In addition to the motorized chair, Azima’s host family was in need of a light-weight, easy to carry, transport chair. This call was answered after some networking efforts by a former AFS host mother, and another incredibly generous donation was made, this time from Sue Chen, the CEO of Nova Wheelchairs.
Azima’s visit to her new school was another new experience . She was given a tour of the campus by International Director Buck Arbuckle as well as the President, Bob Sarkasian. Meeting a few of her fellow school mates from various grades proved to be an enriching experience for all.
The school is thrilled to have Azima in their student body and on her first day she was elected student international club president as well as a member of the yearbook team. Having Azima there to share her culture and raise awareness of what people with disabilities can accomplish, is a valuable asset to the school.
Azima has greeted everything with a sense of adventure and an open-mind and, with the support of her host family and community, has been flourishing with her new-found mobility.
As host mother Harriet writes,“Yesterday we spent over two hours at the City of Eugene Adaptive Recreation program attempting to find and retrofit an adaptive bike that Azima can ride. As you can see, we were successful. This is the first time in her life Azima has ever propelled herself without the aid of a power chair. She loves it, and is doing well going down the little hill next to the dog park, and turning into our cul-de-sac at a pretty good clip. Azima is wonderful, a great addition to our family, and stretches us all to expand what we think is possible!”
Azima riding a low bicycle.