Real faces of Control Arms: Alex Galvez from Guatemala

July 26 2012, 6:39 AM by Rosie Cowling

Alex Gálvez was fourteen when a gang member shot him near his house in Guatemala.

“I went to school in the morning, went home and lunch was ready for me. My cousin and I wanted to drink sodas instead of water so walked out of the house to buy them.

“On our way there, I saw a group of gang members; one approached me, while the others were shouting to kill me. There was a lot of tension between gangs in my area, so I knew what was going to happen.

“I thought I was stronger than him and could push him away, because he looked drugged. He pulled out a gun from behind him. It looked like a toy, but I realized it was real when I felt the cold steel on my forehead.

“He shot me in the clavicle, which injured my spine. The moment the bullet hit me, I couldn’t feel my legs anymore.”

The gang member left the scene without shooting again, while Alex was left in the street without assistance until his friends put him a van and took him to the hospital. After two weeks at the hospital, Alex developed bedsores. He continued to receive poor hospital care for two years until he met John Bell, an American volunteer. John took Alex back to the US where he was treated for 16 months in Washington D.C.

In 1996, once he was recovered, Alex returned to Guatemala where he started Transitions Foundation, today one of Guatemala’s most prominent disability NGOs. Transitions Foundation provides wheelchairs, which it manufactures, prosthetic limbs, sports and recreation. Transitions also has a printing shop that offers job-training programs for employees, who are mostly disabled.

“We want to change peoples perspective, show them that people with disabilities can contribute to society,” says Alex.

Alex Gálvez has been campaigning for an Arms Trade Treaty for 6 years. At first through IANSA, then also with the Control Arms coalition, Alex has been at the forefront of the efforts.

“I want to see change in my country. The ATT needs to include a support system for survivors. I fear the Treaty will only mention survivors directly linked to war, but not those from armed violence. No government wants to invest money for creating these programs.

“It is terrible to see our governments talking about the ATT without thinking about our actual situation in our countries. We need to prevent more people from being injured, because I know it’s a hard life. They’re talking about guns, but forget about the people.”

Alex reveals the human face of these negotiations. He is a vivid reminder of why delegates from 193 countries are assembled to create the first legally binding Arms Trade Treaty. He should also remind delegates that failure is not an option.

For more information about Alex’s foundation, please visit transitionsfoundation.org