Saba Marcos, owner of Ethiopian Food Catering and founder of Agape Mobility Ethiopia, is once again making a trek to her native Ethiopia to hand deliver over 800 custom wheelchairs to those in need.
Marcos has been bringing wheelchairs to Ethiopia since 2011 and is slated to deliver her 3,000th wheelchair in person during her 2023 visit. Her efforts over the next few weeks will focus largely on rural areas of Ethiopia, where disabled persons face stigma and superstition.
Marcos works with ministers of health in these regions to identify those in need of assistance. She then collaborates with Indiana partners such as Lutheran Life Villages, St. Henry’s Thrift Shop, Parkview Health, and private individuals, along with partners throughout the world, to collect wheelchairs that will work for those specific children, teens, and adults.
The mission is personal for Marcos, who was born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. After contracting polio as a child, she gained the ability to walk only after several costly surgeries and countless therapies. At 14, Marcos came to the United States with her family and began a new life.
When she returned to her native country two decades later, Marcos was shocked to see large numbers of poor and disabled people who were begging outside the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and in city centers in the nation’s capital. Marcos knew these people faced a cruel stigma and were often considered cursed, as though their disabilities were a form of punishment.
It was a stigma she felt called to change, and she has fulfilled that calling by personally delivering every single wheelchair. “I give each wheelchair with my own hands,” she said. “When I give the wheelchair, I talk with them to learn their stories, hug them, sit with them. I feel their pain and share God’s love. The more I go, the more I am motivated to give.”
Kevan Chandler of We Carry Kevan recently spoke at an Agape Mobility fundraising banquet in Fort Wayne and recognizes the value of Marcos’ personal investment.
“It’s one thing to give someone a wheelchair to lift their body off the ground,” said Chandler. “It’s another to look into their eyes while they are still on the ground, to join them there and really see them for their value, regardless of their condition, and joyfully give them dignity in spades as you lift their soul off the ground, too.”
When she’s not delivering wheelchairs to Ethiopia, Marcos spends time cooking up authentic Ethiopian dishes through her catering company, Ethiopian Food Catering. She lives in Fort Wayne with her husband, Dean, and their four children, who are all attending college.
Agape Mobility is entirely volunteer operated and serves the 17% of Ethiopians who live with disabilities. Since 2011, founder Saba Marcos has distributed thousands of donated wheelchairs to children, teens, and adults in Ethiopia. Agape Mobility works with health ministers, largely in rural areas, where disabled persons face stigma and superstition. The nonprofit’s goal is to provide 100,000 mobility devices by 2030, and someday to open a wheelchair factory in Ethiopia.