October 2013 Non Profit Spotlight: Prosthetics Outreach Foundation

September 23, 2013

On average, one in 1,000 children worldwide are born with a clubfoot, but most Americans never set eyes on a child afflicted by this disability. Advanced medical care in the United States helps treat these children before they even begin to walk.

 

In developing countries around the globe, many children are not so lucky. That’s where the Prosthetics Outreach Foundation comes in.
 

Since 1989, the Seattle-based non-profit has provided prosthetics (artificial limbs) to help more than 18,000 adults and children in developing countries regain independence. The organization was started by Seattle orthopedic surgeon Dr. Ernest M. Burgess to help Vietnamese survivors of the war who suffered from severe injuries, including amputations, but had few medical resources. The work quickly expanded to populations who had become disabled from other conflicts, landmines, birth defects and accidents.


The Prosthetics Outreach Foundation today provides prosthetic limbs, treatment for clubfoot using the non-surgical Ponseti Method and volunteer orthopedic surgeons to rural areas primarily in Vietnam, Sierra Leone and Haiti. The organization works through partnerships with local governments and other non-government organizations in these countries and also has a partnership with Nalta Hospital in southwest Bangladesh.
 

The theme of every Prosthetics Outreach Foundation program is sustainability. Executive Director Marion McGowan explains they work with local populations to ensure that the programs that are introduced can be continued after the organization leaves. “Local people have ownership,” she says.
 

One of the biggest challenges the organization faces is fighting for attention for the cause of disability among the many pressing issues facing developing regions including famine and diseases.
 

“Disability is a very ignored sector,” Marion says. Although other issues often attract more political attention and fundraising dollars, staff and volunteers of the Prosthetics Outreach Foundation believe preventing disability and improving the lives of those with disabilities is also essential. “Being able to avoid a life of disability by getting timely treatment transforms a person’s life.”
 

An adult outfitted with a new prosthesis gains much more than just the ability to walk. He or she can regain independence and even provide for a family again. “With very little money, you are making a huge impact in someone’s life,” Marion adds.
 

With children the image is even more compelling. The Prosthetics Outreach Foundation recently provided a custom-made ankle brace and a prosthetic limb for an eight-year-old girl in Haiti who had been scooting on the ground on her knee and one deformed foot. For team members who were there the day she took her first step, it was a very profound moment. Witnesses to a childhood regained.
 

For more information about the Prosthetics Outreach Foundation, visitwww.pofsea.org or call 206- 726-1636.
 

Written by Linnea Westerlind 2013

 

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