When God leads you to the edge of the cliff, trust Him fully and let go, only one of two things will happen, either He’ll catch you when you fall, or He’ll teach you how to fly!
Statue the Peruvians call “White Jesus” sitting on a hill in Sacsaywuman
Pisac Ruins, Peru
Music provided by Jon Weems.
Jonathan Weems is a talented musician and has played music most of his life. He learned how to play the guitar and piano in the sixth grade. In high school, he played the trumpet and baritone in the symphonic band. Later on, Jon, as he prefers to be called, started writing music. Though Jon became a C6 quadriplegic in July of 1972 in a diving accident and lost the full use of his hands and fingers, that didn’t stop him from continuing his passion for music. Jon explains how he plays music now like this:
“Now I know you’re wondering how I play music without the use of my fingers. Well, I have typing sticks that fit over each hand that I use to play my keyboard. They work well, but allow me to play only one note at a time. So if you are familiar with sequencers, you know that you can play a one note melody for however many measures and then go back and continue to add on to that part with rhythm parts, counter melodies, etc. That would be one sequence. My keyboard sequencer allows for up to 80 sequences which all fit together like a puzzle to make a song. This process takes a very long time for me but it’s a good feeling to listen to a song knowing I wrote, played, sang and recorded every note.”
Jon would prefer coming up with the basic idea for a song himself and then have the help from other musicians with the music. If you want to help Jon, you can contact him at: jonathanweems at Verizon dot net
I’m happy Jon is on our ONAROLL TEAM. Welcome, Jon!
After Sharon’s experiences in the 1973 Pan American Games in Lima, she promised herself that she would “give back” for the opportunities she herself received. Twenty-five years later in 1998, she met Pepe Lopez owner of Apumayo Expediciones who invited her back to Peru to assist him in developing a tour for people with disabilities particularly those who used wheelchairs. And so began a journey that would rekindle her relationship with Peru. Upon Sharon’s arrival to Cusco, she was presented with a bouquet of flowers by a young man who had long strong arms from pushing an old-fashioned wheelchair. A retired basketball player/coach, Sharon quickly saw the potential in this young man. In the excitement of the celebration of Peruvian dancers and musicians, the man disappeared before she knew his name. It would take a few months before Pepe could locate him. Sharon’s long time basketball friend, Donnie Langford donated the first basketball sports chair. At a presentation before Peruvian news media, the young man wept at the sight of the purple chair presented to him. On her fourth trip to Peru, Sharon would meet Ruben Dario Benavente, who brought along four friends. With the Andean Mountains overlooking an outdoor court in the Municipal Stadium, Sharon conducted an impromptu basketball clinic, with the help of Pepe for translation. Despite reminders by Pepe of the high altitude, Sharon, of course threw herself into the moment to make the first three baskets herself. With this ‘starting five’, Sharon asked them to form an organization. With Mayor Miranda’s wife, Ivonne, present they officially formed their organization. Sharon christened them, Cusco Courage or Cusco Coraje in Spanish as testimony for their daily courageous struggle for a better life. Cusco Coraje which began with 5 members has grown to over 100 members.
Posadas Amazonas Lodge
Since my visit there, this boardwalk has replaced the stepping stones making it easier and safer for everyone moving from one building to another especially at night when it’s pitch dark in the jungle!
Pepe Lopez (www.apumayo.comL) and natives of the jungle hoist Sharon on the adapted Lifeslider Emergency Evacuation Stretcher, donated by William Moore, up a steep bank from the Tambopata River. “If you’re brave enough to try this, I’ll be happy to donate one,” he told Sharon before the trip. She was the first paralyzed person to visit the Posadas Amazonas Lodge located on the border of Bolivia. www.perunature.com
White Water Rafting on the rio Urubamba with Apumayo Expeditiones.
My first trip to Peru was in 1973 when I competed in the Pan-American Wheelchair Games. I met so many wonderful people who gave their best to me. My husband and I, captains of the U. S. Team, met with the President and his wife at the Palace and talked with them about improving access for wheelchair users. For twenty five years, I dreamed of returning and “giving back”. In 1998 that dream was realized when I met a Peruvian Tour Operator, Pepe Lopez owner of Apumayo Expediciones. He shared the same vision of making his country more disability friendly.
Our first trip was to Machu Picchu on my fifty-first birthday! In my five trips there, I’ve visited most parts of Peru including white water rafting down the Urubamba River, boating at Ballestas Island, being the first paralyzed person to visit the Posadas Amazonas Lodge after being pulled up the steep bank from the Tambopata River boat.
People have asked me, “Why do you risk your life?” My answer can be found in the faces of the people I have met there who strive to live a better life. Though I was invited by Prom Peru to make Peruvian destinations more disability friendly for some 800 million people worldwide who have disabilities, my hidden agenda was to make the environment more friendly for the people of Peru who have disabilities and who strive to work, play, worship, raise their families and enjoy life like their peers who I call “temporarily able bodied”. I try to leave the thought with everyone I’ve met in tourism to share the reality that sooner or later in life each one of us or our loved ones will have a disability. Making our environment user friendly for everyone is best for all of God’s children.
My most rewarding experience on five continents was to be a part of the establishment of a sports group I named Cusco Courage or Cusco Coraje in Peru. In our first basketball clinic, there were five people. Within a year the “little team that could” grew to over a hundred members. Since then, I’ve collected and presented thirty sports chairs to Peruvian teams. And, I’ve written a book, Paco’s Gift / El Regalo de Paco. It’s based on an angelic encounter I had with a homeless shoeshine boy and how he changed the way I celebrate Christmas. Due to a disability, the illustrations were painted by Dell Siler who paints with a brush in his mouth. I received a letter two days before Pope John Paul’s death in which he blessed the book and the Cusco Coraje project. With the proceeds, I hope one day to build “the house of Cusco Coraje”. A facility where Peruvians can be educated,learn trades, work, compete in sport, enjoy a warm bed and food, worship and live happily in an accessible environment.
Though I competed and volunteered in tourism on five continents, it is in the country of Peru where I left a piece of my heart. I will always cherish the memories and experiences I have had with Peruvians.
I will be uploading more videos as they are completed on my website: www.onaroll.org and on YouTube. I would like to use Peruvian music and need your help to find an artist who would allow me to use their music. Thank you so much, Sharon
All photography and video copyrighted 2004