“The smile of the children who received the chairs will reflect the friendship and brotherhood between our peoples,” said President of Guatemala Jimmy Morales as 270 colorful child-friendly wheelchairs were distributed to disabled children in a ceremony at the Israeli Embassy in Guatemala.

The inexpensive, durable, low-maintenance Wheelchairs of Hope were conceptualized by Israeli plastics-industry veterans Pablo Kaplan and Chava Rotshtein as a humanitarian mission to enable young children with disabilities in developing countries to attend school.

Thousands of the wheelchairs have been provided in the past few years to children in 17 developing countries including Nepal, Peru, Vietnam, Ethiopia, Colombia, South Africa, Ukraine, Israel, the Palestinian Authority and more through their nonprofit organization, with funding from the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ MASHAV Agency for International Development Cooperation.

“As soon as I heard about the Wheelchairs of Hope project, I decided to make every effort that Guatemalan children who need these chairs will receive them at no cost,” said Israel’s ambassador to Guatemala, Matanya Cohen.

The chairs produced by the project are sturdy enough to handle difficult terrain and at the same time are colorful and cheerful so that they resemble a toy more than medical equipment. The chairs were designed by Ziv-Av Engineering and DM Dot with consultation from ALYN Hospital in Jerusalem, a pediatric and adolescent rehabilitation center.

Kaplan and Rotstein are currently working on the next stage of the project: a chair for older children (ages 9-14) and a model for children with complex disabilities.