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950-mile trip to collect wasted prosthetics

Words by Smiley Team

A UK charity has recently returned from an unusual road trip around the country, to collect discarded prosthetic legs.

Legs4Africa, based in Bristol, completed a 950-mile road trip from North East Scotland to South West England to collect unused prosthetics to be recycled and shipped to sub-Saharan Africa.

There is a disparity in demand between the UK and many African nations, with 5,000 prosthetic legs going to waste each year in the UK compared to 1.7 million people across the African continent who are in need of a prosthetic limb.

Legs4Africa is a registered charity, founded in 2013 by Tom Williams after his trip to The Gambia where Tom was introduced to a man who needed a prosthetic leg urgently, and once back in the UK, Tom was able to successfully source a leg for Paul.

“Legs4Africa was founded because I saw first-hand that change was needed to be made, and I realised how easy it would be," says founder Tom Williams.

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“There are around 45,000 people in England who rely on prosthetic limbs," says Tom. "We are extremely fortunate to have the NHS and we will be forever grateful for their service but unfortunately, it’s not so easy to obtain prosthetics in The Gambia or Tanzania.

“Our work also allows us to open up the conversation around limb loss and improve quality of life for so many people.”

'Costing upwards of £800'

Prosthetic legs built from new and imported parts can costs upwards of £800 in Africa, making them totally unaffordable for many people. Utilising parts that would otherwise end up in UK landfills, Legs4Africa is helping to both reduce waste and to provide vital medical support across the globe.

The Legs4Africa team hired a van in which they visited 12 locations across the country including mobility centres and prosthetic component suppliers.

“We are delighted to be working with so many mobility centres and organisations around the UK – their support and commitment has enabled us to collect more than 600 legs," says Tom.

“We’ve spent the last 12 months really connecting with the general public and showing them what we’re about - either on road trips or via social media and the press have been incredibly supportive, but now we’re keen to build stronger partnerships with other businesses and organisations so we can continue to make a difference to more people’s lives.”

Vision for the future

Tom’s vision for the future of the charity is to be working with more limb fitting centres across Europe, Canada, the USA and Australia by 2025.

Plans are also currently being put in place to increase the mental health and community services currently offered by professionals and volunteers in sub-Saharan Africa, supported by Legs4Africa.

So far, Tom’s vision has led to the repurposing of 10,000 prosthetic limbs, and his team will not be slowing down any time soon.

Inspired to act?

DONATE: You can donate prosthetic legs or money to support Legs4Africa in their mission. 

GET INVOLVED: You can also follow the campaign on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook - @Legs4Africa.

This article aligns with the following UN SDGs

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