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「Someday till Barrier Free wind will blow in the world」

We are now in the middle of the most beautiful, fresh and greenery season in Japan. How is everybody doing?

My name is Yuki Maejima. I was a coordinator of JICA training course, “the leaders of persons with disabilities” in 2003 & 2004. I was fortunate enough to be assigned to this wonderful course in both 2003 & 2004 as a coordinator, and I really enjoyed myself sharing great time with our wonderful participants of this course.

Nacho-san, who was also a participant of 2003 Leaders Course, needless to say, gave us extraordinary wonderful memory and great encouragement how our lives are beautiful if we live them positively. Today, I would like to introduce some precious words and memory of our beloved friend, Nacho, who passed away last month. He was a great man, and a great leader of persons with disabilities. Still sadly we’ve had a lot of losses in our hearts.

I still vividly remember the day I met him at first time in JICA TOKYO’ Lobby in late September in 2003. He came in the lobby with his big smile, pushing his favorite black sports- type wheelchair. “What a long trip! Finally here I am!” This was exactly his first words I had heard in JICA TOKYO. It took 20 hours by plane to get to JICA TOKYO from Mexico where he lived. During 7 weeks of training program, he was so impressed by Japanese transportation accessibility. He said “Wow! It is so great to see that every transit mode is accessible in Japan. Subway and public buses are also accessible! Look at Mexico! It is sad to say that there are still a lot of problems and barriers in our public transportation system in Mexico….” “I think transportation accessibility is very important human right, especially for wheelchair users like me. I really would like Mexico to be an accessible country like Japan! ” Whenever he traveled or moved around during the training course, his wheelchair was the most important instrument for him, and he was so proud of his good-used black wheelchair. He carefully polished his wheelchair all the time by himself and also he fixed it by himself when it was broken. “Of course my wheelchair is so important to me, and very special. It meant to be my legs. Yes, of course. I fix and keep it well. I am using it for more than 10 years! ” Nacho-san has 3 lovely daughters in Mexico, and they looked so adorable in photo he showed me. Always he carried the photo of his daughters wherever he went to the field trip. He loved his daughters so much. “This is the reason why I can live my life fully because my daughters are always around. I was so fortunate to have my girls. They are my wonderful treasures and I really thank the god for bringing my girls to my life! As their dad, I always want to live strong to protect them!” Whenever he talked about his daughters, he looked so kind and tender. He was really wonderful father. “It does not matter whether you have disability or not. Life is only one time for everybody. Always I want to live my life positively. This life with disability might be great chance for me which was given by god, because I could experience a lot of things. If you could live your life independently with your strong pride, you do not have to be ashamed about yourself. If you live your life with your pride, you could be yourself. Right ? I want to prove how important this positive thinking is to all of my friends with disability in Mexico”. He really trusted that life has a lot of joy and laughter even amidst pain and hardship. He had a great sense of humor and always made us laugh. And that’s another great gift, to be able to live a life with joy that can co-exist with hardship and pain. Nacho was very strong person, and truly great hero. For him, Independent living concept was truly his life theme and he tackled with this idea very seriously and wished to disseminate this concept to the disabled persons who live in Mexico. “Nacho-san, what is you dream? ” I asked this question before he left Japan. “My dream is to ride on my Harley and drive Highway in Mexico. Maybe, I have to remodel little bit my Harley Davidson to become accessible. But I definitely make my dream come true! Because it is my dream, and always dream is there to be true, right? I want to feel the fresh breeze to my both cheeks. Yes, I want to ride on it blowing in wind!” He smiled and winked at me. He was such a challenging person about everything. ” I’m lucky. I’m very lucky, because I think that I’m in a position to do more than just sit home and look at the window, that I can actually do a lot of things and helps. I always want to think how I could help for those disabled persons who are more severe than my disability. How can they materialize their independent living in their community? How can I help? Always I am thinking about this. Of course this wasn’t a road I would have picked, but a lot of times, things, you know, get picked for you. So the point is, either I give in or I say, O.K. let’s make the best of this. Let’s do your best! And there’s a lot you can do! “.

On April 13th 2005, we received the very sad news. He passed away and went to heaven. In the 41 years that he lived, he accomplished many things. His sudden death came as great shock, but the memory of Nacho will be remembered forever by us. Thank you, Nacho-san. Thank you for those wonderful positive words you left for us. We never forget you. Someday, as you dreamt, transportation accessibility will become the world trend, and all nations including your beloved home country, Mexico will become one of the leading accessible countries in the world. And someday, barrier free society definitely will become the world trend. Until the day, please ride on your Harley freely in the star shining universe, where might be perfectly barrier-free world. And you could come back soon in our world, since it becomes accessible. If you could see us from the sky, please wave your hands with your cheeky smile same as before. And…….Please do not forget to find us wherever you are.

I always pray your soul may rest in peace.

Your friend,
Yuki Maejima

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