Need Knowers Satisfied after Sharing their Experiences in TOM 2021


Angel (right) is one of the six need knowers who participated in TOM 2021. In the picture, you can see makers testing the prototype.

Need-knowers from around the country are gratified and proud to make part of this year’s TOM experience, which took place at TCS from September 30th to October 2nd.

Tikkun Olam Makers (TOM) is an organization that recruits people with notable disabilities and brings together a team of engineers and volunteers who come up with long-lasting and sustainable solutions to improve the quality of life of the need-knowers. This year, there were 6 need-knowers in total. The prototypes built by the teams transformed the need knowers’ lives by allowing them to perform their everyday tasks and fulfill their dreams. The volunteers, visitors & need knowers left TOM with high spirits.

“I would totally recommend TOM because they are visionary people who care for others no matter their disabilities.”- Laura Rodriguez, 2018/ 2021 TOM need-knower, said.

The first need knower who was interviewed was Angel, a 27-year-old man who works by transporting washing machines on his bicycle. Earlier in his life, he suffered an accident that hindered his job. He kept on working and eventually this task caused damage to his bike, requiring him to transport the machines manually. 

“I had a traffic accident with a femur fracture and lost my left arm mobility.”   Ángel Manuel Rodríguez, 2021 TOM need-knower, said.

Furthermore, the team created a trailer to hook up to his bike, made of stainless steel, with improved tires and quality tread and rims. The purpose of this project is to help Angel reduce the levels of effort and give him the option to carry the machines using his back. Angel expressed fulfillment. 

“The actual way they have treated me has been exceptional, you can notice from the beginning the quality of their treatment.” A. Rodriguez said. 

The second interviewee was Laura Elizabeth Rodriguez, who happens to be a former need knower from the 2018 TOM edition. Laura is a twenty-eight-year-old athlete, who lost her right arm due to a poisonous snake bite when she was 13. She reached out for help again in order to make some modifications in the prototype due to the elbow mobility being damaged because of a crash. 

“The boys have been very creative, they have really made an effort to find practical solutions, very light & with good functionality. “- Laura Rodriguez, 2021 TOM need-knower, said.

The initial prototype made for her had a socket that was oversized, therefore a change was made so that it fits right. The team came together to create an improved and flexible prototype to allow Laura to properly ride her bike. However, this was a challenge for the team since she needs to have the bike levels, the brakes, and access to her thermos, all without being restricted. 

 At the end of the day, Laura was satisfied with her overall experience, so much in fact, that she would be willing to give her spot to another person in need. 

“I have enjoyed the event; however, I would not do it again, only because I’d like to give other people the opportunity. I was fortunate to be a participant for 2 consecutive years, yet, I think it is time to make the move to another person.”

This event strengthened relationships between members of the TCS community and created long-lasting bonds with all the participants and visitors. Once again, we realize that TOM is a life-changing experience and that all dreams can come true with teamwork. 

“This is my first time participating in this event, and working as a maker touched my heart, and it’s something that I will never forget. I definitely recommend everyone who has the chance to be a part of this program and a leader for change” – Matias Alzate, maker of Team Eduard, and high school student.

The third need-knower was Eduard, a 35-year-old male with a condition called mucopolysaccharidosis. This means that he has a group of metabolic disorders caused by the malfunctioning of lysosomal enzymes to break down molecules called glycosaminoglycans. Eduard lost most of his hearing, speaking abilities, and has difficulty breathing sometimes, as well as a tremble. The condition also causes him to lose most of his mobility in his body, especially his legs.

“Living with this condition hasn’t been easy at all. Eduard is such a lively person, but having this condition has hindered his abilities to complete most of his day-to-day activities.” – Natalia Rios, Eduard’s caretaker, and sister. 

This is a genetic condition that is incurable and has been passed down in the family.

His family consists of 8 members in total, 5 sisters and 3 brothers. Two of Eduard’s other siblings have the same genetic condition.

“To be honest, it is sometimes discouraging to know that there isn’t any known cure for this disease. Participating in an event like TOM gives us hope that there are alternatives to improve Eduard’s quality of life.”, Rios said.

Eduard isn’t able to move by himself but instead moves in a wheelchair that has to be pushed by someone else, limiting his independence. Some of his hobbies include painting, drawing, and also playing Talking Tom and Mario Kart. 

For this reason, his TOM makers team decided to build a motorized electric wheelchair, so he’s able to use the Nintendo joystick by himself, giving him the independence and facility in his everyday life. 

“I was really moved by all the hard work and enthusiasm from everyone in the team. I really admire how they have the ability to adapt the wheelchair to allow me to complete one of the things I love doing the most freely.”, Eduard said.

I would totally recommend TOM because there are visionary people who care for others no matter their weaknesses,” Angel Manuel Rodriguez, 2021 TOM need knower, said.