Amputee becomes advocate for people and pets with disabilities

“My view on life changed the day they amputated my legs.”

Zarevitz Camacho – affectionately called ‘Zaza’- was silent for a moment then laughed.

“I learned to value the small things, above all that you have to help others,” she said.

It happened on the night of April 29, 2011. She was waiting for the train on the platform of El Silencio, one of the metro stations in Caracas, when she felt dizzy and fell onto the tracks. When she opened her eyes, she saw the train passing over her.

The underground workers thought she was dead. But she cried out with strength and threw a bag within her reach. Someone shouted, “She’s alive!”

They rescued her and took her to a hospital. There her legs were cut off at the knees.

“At first it affected me [negatively], but I learned to see it positively, that we have to be better human beings, giving a hand to others,” Camacho said.

Now she’s one of the promoters of Project Nala, a foundation that makes wheelchairs for dogs and cats with walking difficulties. It was an idea of her friend Ann González, a Venezuelan who was worried there were no alternatives for pets with paralysis or missing legs.

González experimented with different materials to build structures tailored to each animal to facilitate their movement. It worked, and currently they have received orders from as far away as Australia.

“You’re hardly charged for the materials, and not for the labour. What interests us is that the animals can walk, not making money with that,” said Camacho.

Faced with so much demand, Camacho and González uploaded videos to Youtube explaining how the chairs are assembled to fit individual animals. With those videos, whoever needs a chair can make one for their furry friend.

But Camacho hasn’t stopped there. Her experience allowed her to become a motivational speaker and she pursued a diploma in personal coaching. Now she does motivational conferences where she provides people tools to overcome difficult situations.

She also created Fundacapacidad, an organization that works as a support channel for people with disabilities.

“We get medicine through donations and we take care of distributing them,” she said.

It is no easy task in a country like Venezuela, where a severe economic crisis has impacted the health sector.

“We do it as a team. We have had support from private companies and individuals. Every [amount of] help counts.”

So far Camacho considers the project a success.

“We’ve supported a lot of people,” she says with a hint of pride and a smile.