I recently met someone who takes doing good deeds extremely seriously. I met Tom McCormack and learned a bit about all the amazing things he does in Panama.
It started with my good friend Haydeé who is a special ed teacher. She has a student, a young boy who is unable to walk and is carried everywhere by his mother. She asked me if I had any idea of how she could get this boy a wheelchair so he would be less dependent on his mother, and would then be able to attend school for more than a short time every day.
I remember hearing about someone from a video by my friend Ryan, and reading about someone on Chiriqui Chatter, and a bit of research led me to Tom McCormack’s WEBSITE. Within hours I had a reply to my email and an invitation to meet Tom at his warehouse.
When I arrived at the warehouse he and an assistant were very busy cleaning and repairing wheelchairs. He had a small wheelchair that looked right for the child, and after a short phone call with Hydeé to verify some facts the wheelchair was put in the line for repairs.
This morning Haydeé and I visited Tom in his office workshop. He has a small room full of prosthesis parts, a parallel bars, a work table, and a bit of space for a chair and his assistant’s desk. Tom was busy working on a leg prosthesis for a man, and another was waiting outside for an arm prosthesis. Tom gets donated parts that are the receptacle for the end of the limb, and I also saw some artificial feet, but he often fabricates a lot of the prosthesis himself from PVC pipe, metal pipe, and any other parts that will work.
Both times that I’ve seen Tom he has been a whirlwind of activity. He works harder as a volunteer than most of us work on our regular jobs! He told me that he spends half his time in the US, and half his time here. In the US he collects all the medical equipment he can find, loads it into containers and has it shipped to Panama. When he is here he works on repairing equipment and distributing it to people in need, usually the poorest citizens of this province.
He told me that right now his biggest needs are hearing aids and breast prostheses. He also collects glasses, wigs (for cancer patients), and any sort of medical equipment – prostheses, beds, walkers, wheelchairs, crutches, etc. And, of course, money is always welcome to help cover his costs of collecting items and shipping containers.
Tom first came here 20 years ago as a master beekeeper, to help Panamanian beekeepers be more productive. When he saw that things often discarded in the US would be so useful to people here he started bring clothing, and then medical equipment. From there is has grown to an organization of many volunteers both in the US and Panama, and at least a dozen full containers have been shipped.
I am looking forward to learning more about Tom McCormack and everything he does. Unfortunately he’s leaving for the US next week, but I know he’ll be back. Meanwhile, who knows. Maybe I can find some sources of donations among my US contacts.
If any of you want to support this very worthy cause with either donations or equipment, go to Tom’s website. His contact information is there, along with instructions on how to send money by either check or Paypal. If you support this effort you know that everything goes to help people who really need it!