Leicester born humanitarian Tom Williams recently spoke to us about the growth of his prosthetics focused charity, Legs4Africa:
“Legs4Africa began in 2013 when I travelled to the Gambia on holiday with a friend. During my visit I met a man named Paul who had lost a leg due to diabetes and I could see there was little hope of him getting a prosthetic from the services available. I didn't promise Paul anything, as my background wasn’t in healthcare, and I really had no idea what was involved in sourcing a prosthetic, but I did tell him I would see if I could help back in the UK.
“Having spoken to a few professionals, I connected with a prosthetist who was himself an amputee and could empathise with Paul. He didn't hesitate in offering to build a custom built leg in his spare time and sponsor the materials. Within a few months I was back on a flight to The Gambia to deliver Paul his new leg.
“I always knew that I was trying to do some good by helping to find Paul a new leg but it wasn't until I met with him and helped fit his new leg, which helped him to stand up for the first time in almost 2 years, that I recognised what this leg represented. This artificial leg was Paul's independence, it gave him confidence and allowed him to go back to work and provide once again for his family.
“Helping Paul was an amazing experience, but my time looking at the issue had given me an appreciation of just how big the problem of access to prostheses was across Africa. Meanwhile back in the UK there was a huge surplus of artificial limbs that users had outgrown being thrown into landfill.
“It turns out that around 5,000 legs are disposed of every year in the UK alone. I knew these legs were modular, comprised of detachable components that could be used to build new legs for those in need in Africa.
“Since the first leg, we have now rescued and recycled over 7,000 prosthetic legs which would otherwise be going to landfill and changed thousands of lives for the better as a result.
“We also work to provide advocacy and emotional support in the countries where components are being sent to so we can make an even bigger, lasting impact.
“The World Health Organisation (WHO) states that just 1 in 10 people with physical disabilities in the developing world have access to assistive technology. Legs4Africa helps to address part of this deficit by providing the means for amputees in Africa to walk comfortably and safely in societies where such services are not usually available.
“Legs4Africa will not stop until every amputee in Africa has access to the prosthetic legs they need to live independent lives. Gift mobility, save the planet and get Africa back on its feet, one leg at a time.”
Over the course of the charity's development, Tom has worked closely with DMU graduate and Alumni of the Month, Andy Gundelach, Creative Director of Created by Ten, to produce fundraising and awareness films. You can view their work and learn more here.
The charity has continued to expand its operations, collecting hundreds of prostethics a year, but shipping the limbs to Africa remains one of the most expensive and onerous parts of the process. You can help by volunteering to transport a prosthetic through the charitable luggage allowance, find out more on their website.
Posted on Friday 13th December 2019