PET is a faith-based, volunteer-powered, humanitarian, and world-wide organization. PET U.S. affiliates and PET International operate as tax-exempt 501(c)(3) under the U.S. Internal Revenue Code.
PET began in 1994 when Reverend Larry Hills, missionary in Zaire (now Congo), Africa, told Reverend Mel West of the great need for three-wheeled, hand-cranked wheelchairs for victims of polio and landmines. Mel contacted Earl Miner, product designer and long-time friend and mission partner, and the process of the prototype design began.
In 1995, When prototype development was ready for field testing, four were shipped to Larry Hills with the instructions to “put these in the worst place you can find, and see if they pass the test.” Larry did, and the PETs did. Shipments began to Zaire, where Larry had set up a place to receive the frames, put on the wooden beds, and distribute them. See history for the full story.
PET Project Philosophy
The PET Project is not wed to just this particular model of machine. Besides raising funds for building PET vehicles, some affiliates collect other used mobility devices such as canes, foldable walkers, crutches, and wheelchairs. Even if they need minor repairs/replacement parts, we receive and send them on to one of our distribution partners, Hope Haven International Ministries, in Iowa. They refurbish used mobility devices and distribute along with our PETs in over 80 countries to date.
Our goal is the Gift of Mobility for all of God’s people in need. We will cooperate and share with anyone working toward that goal. We seek to involve lay persons in the Church as major servants in this mission. We want to work with all groups, religious or secular and seek to provide mobility first for those in greatest need and with least resources. We are open to serve and work with those whose lord is not Jesus.
The PET has been extensively field tested and is designed to be:
- STURDY, in order to provide services for the rider for many years
- SIMPLE, to be easily maintained in outpost conditions
- LOW-COST, so the donor dollar can serve as many as possible – $250
These requirements have led to the following details of the design:
- Hand-cranked: The hand-cranked model has proven most successful in most field conditions.
- Sturdy tires: The PET uses sturdy and low cost wheelbarrow wheels and solid rubber tires.
- Three versions are made: small & large crank sizes and Pull PETs for those who do not have upper body strength or coordination. A missionary in Zambia says in his area there are as many in need of the Pull design as the standard crank PET.
- Adaptability: The PET can be adapted to a wide variety of bed or seat configurations.
- Simple brakes: The PET has a front-wheel brake, with a simple parking brake.
Despite this robustness, the PET is not an all-terrain vehicle. It will not go everywhere. Its ability to move is limited to the muscle power of the driver. As the driver uses the vehicle more, he/she gains strength. Other notes are:
- The PET moves out at about the speed of a fast walk.
- There are always “trade-offs” in designing any machine. The crank pedals of the PET always turn. This gives a needed reverse gear, but when coasting downhill the driver should remove his/her hand from the cranks and steer with the steering tiller/brake handle, slowing the speed by pushing down on the brake handle.