Jessica Cox Delivers Messages of Hope, Named Woman of the Year


Filipina-American Jessica Cox—who was born without arms but is certified to fly an airplane—is wrapping up a week-long mission to the Philippines with Handicap International. On Mar. 4, she took a break from a busy schedule with Handicap International beneficiaries and staff to attend a session in the Philippines' House of Representatives. During her visit, Congress passed House Resolution 902 declaring Jessica the country's Woman of the Year for 2014.

Speaker Feliciano Belmonte, Jr., together with Rep. Emi G. Calixto-Rubiano, said they share Jessica's interests in advocating for persons with disabilities, especially those affected by natural disasters, such as Typhoon Haiyan / Yolanda. In a press release, Belmonte is quoted telling Jessica, "you are a great inspiration to the Filipino people."

Indeed, on Feb. 28, Jessica’s last full day in the hardest-hit areas of the Philippines, she did a whole lot of inspiring. Two events attracted more than 250 people with disabilities and their families. The events gave them a chance to meet and speak with Jessica, while also learning about the services that Handicap International can provide to anyone who needs additional help. (View more pictures on Facebook)

Jessica’s first event was in Palo, a city just south of Tacloban on the Leyte province. Local resident Roman, who is a survivor of polio and uses a wheelchair, organized the meeting. Roman is benefiting from Handicap International’s cash-for-work project, which provides him with a much-needed source of income. Roman spread the word about Jessica’s visit, and attracted 60 people to meet Jessica and talk with Handicap International staff.

Handicap International physical therapist Anna organized a second event in Tolosa, just south of Palo. More than 200 people, including the Mayor of Tolosa, packed a tent in this waterfront town. The general sentiment among the crowd was that Jessica’s fighting spirit, and her ability to strike the words “I can’t” from her vocabulary can give them the resilience to try to remain strong, too.

Later, Jessica and her husband Patrick Chamberlain visited Handicap International beneficiary Dante. Dante explained to Jessica how he saved two men from a falling wall during Typhoon Haiyan, only to have the same wall crush his left foot. Jessica and Patrick gave Dante a book including more than 1,000 Messages of Hope, collected from Handicap International friends and donors.

Handicap International physical therapist Iris had met Dante after the storm, and connected him to a hospital that was able to save his foot. With Handicap International’s ongoing help, regular exercise, and physical therapy, Dante will make a full recovery. “Iris is my savior,” he said.

As the field visit wrapped up, Anna noted that her days with Jessica have been “some of the best of my life,” and that she will “look back on them in hard times to lift my spirits”. Jessica signed her final copy of the Messages of Hope book in honor of Anna’s baby daughter.

Thirty-one-year-old Cox was born without arms but is certified to fly an airplane. She spent the last week visiting the areas most affected by Typhoon Haiyan, meeting with people who are receiving Handicap International’s support, care and aid.

The visit allows Cox, and her husband Patrick Chamberlain, both Goodwill Ambassadors for the charity, an opportunity to offer their help in the ongoing emergency relief efforts. The pair also hope to bring more attention to the ongoing crisis, which directly impacts their own family: Jessica’s mother hails from hard-hit Eastern Samar, Philippines, and she lost her great aunt in the storm.

Typhoon Haiyan is the strongest storm ever recorded, affecting about 15 million people. More than 6,000 people died as a result and 1,761 others are still unaccounted for. In the immediate aftermath of the storm, Handicap International set up a logistics platform in and around Tacloban to supply vital humanitarian aid and to help clear debris. Teams have been distributing aid, including tents to provide shelter for thousands of Filipinos.


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Follow Handicap International updates on Twitter at @HI_UnitedStates as well as insights from Jessica Cox at @Jess_Feet

Read Messages of Hope here: