The beach. It’s everyone’s favourite summer activity, but for some, it can be a little bit harder to enjoy.
The sandy terrain can be brutal on wheelchairs (meanwhile, a specially outfitted beach wheelchair can run well over $1,000), and even when the coast has a rubber boardwalk leading to the water, that’s often as far as people with physical disabilities will get. But one charity in Italy, called Work of Love, has made it a mission since 2012 to help everyone enjoy the cool waves of the sea.
For years now, the group has rented a small patch of Little Madonna beach (just south of Rome) and outfitted it with special boardwalks, all-terrain wheelchairs, ramps, and other pieces of equipment, along with highly-trained volunteers, that help people get in and out of the water.
The beach has a boardwalk specifically to help people in wheelchairs traverse the sand. Now Pope Francis is throwing his weight behind the problem with a donation in his name that will cover the cost of renting a spot on Little Madonna beach.
According to Work of Love’s website, the donation caught them completely off guard in the best way. CNN reports hundreds of people with disabilities come to Work of Love’s beach every year. But new faces each summer means rising costs. Having the pope in your corner sure helps making the rent. And after nearly five years of service, there are many people with disabilities, and their families, who rely on this little slice of sand to be the getaway they need.
In the wake of Pope Francis’ recent and widely discussed TED Talk, it’s no surprise to see him make a powerful gesture like this.
“How wonderful would it be, while we discover faraway planets, to rediscover the needs of the brothers and sisters orbiting around us,” he said in the video, which has already been viewed tens of thousands of times.
Pope Francis may have flaws, but he’s also proven to be a remarkable humanitarian. Beyond just bringing light to different ways we could better serve the disabled community, he’s doubling down on his belief that now — especially now — is the time to look for ways to help our fellow humans.
Even if that just means helping them have a day full of fun at the beach.