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Recycled Prosthetic Limbs Reduce Waste and Transform Lives

For someone who's missing a limb or who has suffered an injury or illness, a prosthetic limb can mean living a life of independence. And thanks to a UK charity, prosthetics are giving even more people a chance at an independent life.

Legs4Africa is a British charity that collects prosthetic limbs that have been outgrown from the UK and abroad and delivers them to clinics in West Africa, where they're altered and fitted for their new recipients.

The organization’s founder, Tom Williams, met a man in Gambia in need of a new leg, four years ago, according to CTV News.

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Williams sent the man’s measurements to UK healthcare contacts he had, who happened to find a discarded prosthetic limb that was the perfect fit.

“That [prosthetic leg] not just changed his life, but the whole family. It lifted a huge burden off their shoulders,” Williams told CTV News.

That story received media attention in the UK and Williams said amputees started sending him their old prosthetics.

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Legs4Africa quickly collected around 500 limbs and mobility devices and Williams sent them to a hospital in Gambia. Since then, the charity has sent more than 3,000 artificial legs to Gambia, Tanzania, and Zambia.

“In a lot of Africa, having a prosthetic leg is almost often out of reach. It is almost considered an unrealistic thing to obtain,” he told CTV News. “And I think that since we have been sending legs out there, there is a level of hope now.”

Now it’s not just amputees from the UK who are donating their discarded prosthetics. In fact, a former Canadian soldier was recently able to donate his old prosthetics to the charity.

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A landmine in Afghanistan caused Michael Barnewall to lose his lower leg in 2006.

“If you've ever lost your independence, you understand just how important it is,” he told CTV News.

So far, Legs4Africa has sent prosthetics to six countries, to recipients like Alieo Touray, a 52-year-old police officer who was run down by a car years ago, and diabetic Fatima Gaye, a 48-year-old woman who had her leg amputated after a rat bit her and the wound became infected.

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Another recipient, Dawda, who is 25, was amputated after he was involved in an accident when he was working as a lorry driver. He believes that with a disability like that, people forget about you and turn away from helping.

“When I get the leg, it’s the independence… It’s more — far better than before,” he said in a Legs4Africa video.

With his new leg, he is able to drive like before, but he still struggles to find employment.

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But Dawda maintains his confidence in what he is able to do.

“Anything people do, I do it,” he said.

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