While several people from Yellowknife made their way to warmer places for spring break – Mexico, for example – one couple spent their time off trying to improve the lives of people less fortunate.
Barry Talbot and his wife, Julie Lizotte, spent their vacation in Mazatlan, Mexico, last month and it turned into a trip where dozens of people now have new equipment to improve their lives.
Yellowknifer approached Talbot to speak with him about the philanthropic excursion and he said it was the first such voyage he had taken in quite some time.
“Ten-plus years ago, I was very involved in raising money and delivering wheelchairs to Mexico, primarily to the cities of Hermosillo and Obregon, which are located in the state of Sonora,” he said. “Back then, some of the big supporters were various Yellowknife schools, the Rotary Club and its members, various churches and many individual Yellowknifers.”
The trips stopped, though, because, as Talbot said, some customs officials in Mexico started looking for bribes.
“On the last container of wheelchairs destined to Obregon, the Rotary Club in Obregon had to pay the customs officials off for them to release it,” he said. “This goes against both mine and Rotary’s principles, so a decision was made to stop.”
Fast-forward to December 2022, when Talbot and Lizotte first vacationed in Mazatlan.
Talbot said instead of staying in the tourist area, he and his wife decided to book accommodations in the historical central zone with local residents.
“Best decision ever,” said Talbot.
On that trip, they met a man by the name of Eddie, who was born with no arms, but who played drums at a local market for donations.
“We took a liking to him and promised him that we would raise some money for him and bring it back down to him when we returned this past March,” said Talbot.
When they returned last month, Talbot said they couldn’t find him. They arrived with around $670 in cash donations, which was originally set aside for Eddie.
“I contacted everyone who donated and they all agreed that I could put the money into buying wheelchairs,” said Talbot.
But another problem emerged: Talbot had no idea who needed one or where he could even buy them. Then he found a medical supplies store not far from where he and Lizotte were staying and was able to buy three wheelchairs with the donated funds.
With the chairs purchased, the job now turned to who to give them to. That’s where the community came in.
“We became good friends with our go-to taxi driver and he knew someone that needed one,” said Talbot. “We did some volunteer work at the Vineyard Church and they knew someone who needed one. Finally, we have a friend who’s lived there the past nine years and his Mexican wife knew someone who needed a chair.”
One wheelchair went to a 37-year-old woman named Solia, who lost both of her legs at the age of 18 while trying to board a moving train. Another was donated to a 77-year-old man named Roberto and the third went to an 82-year-old man named Genaro.
In addition to the wheelchairs, Talbot and Lizotte took two bags full of equipment donated by NWT Softball and the Aurora Minor Soccer League. Those bags were handed over to two schools, described by Talbot as “very impoverished.”
“If you could see the look on their faces, it was priceless,” he said. “At the one school, it was the first time kids have ever had a baseball glove on. The school only had one beat-up soccer ball for the 100-plus kids to play with.”
The educational facility is also in need of a computer, printer and school supplies, which Talbot said he and Lizotte plan to raise money for.
While in Mazatlan, Talbot said he decided to join the local Rotary Club there and, with help from the club and the Vineyard Church, more people who need wheelchairs will be identified.
Talbot said he and his wife plan to go back to Mazatlan in December and they’re already starting to raise money for that trip.
Blessings on your efforts…. I can relate to your story as my husband and I worked for a foundation for the very poor in Vicente Guerrero in Baja, Mexico for many years.
We look back on those years (we are both 85 now and cannot travel) as the best and most rewarding.
Thank God for people like you. I lived in Yellowknife from 1962-1999 and still consider YK “home”…
Thank you for sharing your story. You will be blessed for your service and compassion.