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Aug 23, 2012

Paraplegic Jeremy Flores has his eyes on the Paralympics 2016

Jerome Flores is a well-known paraplegic who has undertaken a number of initiatives to build awareness for persons living with a wide range of disabilities. You will also remember him for riding his hand bike from Belmopan to Dangriga to raise awareness for the work of OCEANA last November.  Flores is now setting his eyes on a far bigger prize. He wants to participate in the 2016 Brazil Paralympics. But between advocacy and training, the energetic Flores still finds time to build furniture. He sat down for a one on one with me earlier this week.

 

Marleni Cuellar

“This is a thirty-foot high lamppost. In March 2003, twenty-one year old Boom resident, Jerome Flores, fell from a lamppost, forty-feet high. It was an accident that stripped him of his ability to ever be able to walk again. But this life-changing accident only became the catalyst for a young man to become an advocate for person with disabilities. We are here in Burrell Boom at the home of Jerome Flores to find out what latest awareness initiative he has his eyes set on.”

 

Jerome Flores

Jerome Flores, Paraplegic Cyclist/Aspiring Paralympian

“It wasn’t that complicated; it was maybe a little challenging, but with me I love a challenge anytime. So it was not that complicated for me.”

 

Marleni Cuellar

This is how thirty-one year old Jerome Flores describes the changes in his life after the accident that confined him to a wheelchair. He credits a great deal of his optimism to his upbringing and continuous support of his family.

 

Jerome Flores

“I can’t say it didn’t feel anyway because I would be lying, but the main thing is that I had the family support.  The way my parents raise me I try not to focus on the negative stuff cause then it wouldn’t get my anywhere. It would just get me down and eventually I would die. That background and support and that growing up that role model that really help me to overcome it because it not everyone who can I think can be able to overcome such a drastic life changing moment.”

 

Marleni Cuellar

Flores is no stranger to Belizeans, in the past few years he’s been determined to raise awareness for persons living with disabilities. From grueling rides on his strike across the country to the establishment of the NGO, BAPDA—the Belize Assembly for Persons with Diverse Abilities. And now goal is set on competing in a major international multi-sport event: the Paralympics in Brazil in 2016. The Paralympics Games include athletes with physical disabilities, and are run in parallel with the Olympic Games

 

Jerome Flores

“You know, I di look forward to the Olympics in 2016 and I don’t really want to do it for myself, I want others to join me also. Recently, I got a grant from C.A.F., Challenge Athlete Foundation in the States and they donated a top of the line hand trike—it is very fast, it is much lighter and out there riding—usually I’ll be riding on mines that I use to ride with and I can’t catch up with other cyclist that pass me. It is so complicated. But now with the new one that I got, as the person pas and I just pick up the speed, quick time I’m up behind them. It’s just a completely, completely different feeling.”

 

His greatest motivation for these initiatives has been the based on his own personal experiences. Like most disabled persons, Jerome strives to be independent. He picked up the skill of furniture making and created his own bamboo furniture business. He even drives with what he calls his ‘wooden leg’: as he eagerly demonstrated for us in his brother-in-law’s vehicle.

 

Jerome Flores

“This is my life now. You know I had a life before walking and everything. I want to be independent. I live in my own house, I have my own bills and I need to go out. And if by me going out, I will face these challenges. But if I speak out, then I could get help from those who can help me to make my life and my situation much easier and much better.”

 

Marleni Cuellar

“Do you feel that the initiatives that you’ve taken on have been effective?”

 

Jerome Flores

“To be honest, just being on my bike riding you can see it. You would see everyone passing, raising their hands, honking their horns. And it makes me feel good because I know that people are seeing what is going on and they like the positiveness; the inspiration.”

 

That optimism still carries through even when faced with tough decisions like two months ago when he broke his left leg.

 

Jerome Flores

“They told me one thing was to either cast it, but then I would have to have it in cast for six months to a year. That would put a toll on me because I need to move around. So I asked them if they would plate it; if it would hold and then it would be speedier recovery. He said that due to the condition that the bone is in, if you would plate it, when you push in the screws, it would split the bone. So I said that option was not good because I didn’t want to get any infection and especially with your bone because then that is very serious because you could die from that. So I told my mom might as well just cut it off because I’m not using it still so what’s the point of stressing to try and save it. It was pretty easy to move into another disability because I’m paralyzed and now an amputee. So it is two in one so again it’s just my life; what I go through—I don’t really try to make things keep me down.”

 

The way he sees it is that now he just has one leg to worry about. It’s this kind of steadfast hope that Jerome wants to instill in other Belizeans with diverse abilities through his participation in the Rio Paralympics Games in 2016.

 

Marleni Cuellar

“Why is the Paralympics something that you are even interested in being able to reach?”

 

Jerome Flores

“Also, it’s a challenge for me; a big challenge; something that has not been done in Belize. So that’s why I would like to set goals for person with disabilities. A very big goal also in order to compete against others—not only for your country, but just being out there, meeting friends, having fun and seeing what is out there because being here and riding around, it is just a regular life. But then going out there and doing something great like that it really helps you emotional and it makes you feel more positive about yourself.”

 

Flores’ first goal is getting funding for two or three more bikes to have others train with him and also locating a coach who can properly train him and get him acquainted with the rules of the games.

 

Jerome Flores

“I see changes being done, but it is just being going at a small level, small percent. We have to start somewhere. But I think the more we come out, the more people come out—because if it is just one person talk out, people get tired ah dehn and then directly dehn noh wah study dehn none at all—so I always try encourage people to go out and talk to people. Let people see that you want to do this and if you do it, people will see that the needs are there and they will support it.”

 

Marleni Cuellar

“The distance to the finish line in Rio may be four years, but for Jerome, each day is just one pedal closer to reaching his goal.”

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4 Responses for “Paraplegic Jeremy Flores has his eyes on the Paralympics 2016”

  1. Storm says:

    What an inspiration! Not just for disabled people, but for every young Belizean. Here’s a man who might have been excused if he gave up because of his terrible injury, but he did not — with character and hard work he has found a way to support himself, and even to excel in a sport he loves.

    Contrast that with the gangbangers who quit school to hang out, get high, and never earn an honest shilling.

    Flores is already a winner.

  2. Lilian says:

    Iam proud of u for what ur doing

  3. Lilian says:

    Keep up the good work jerome.anything is possible if u just believe

  4. Mz.Dee says:

    You can do it Jerome!!!

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