Thai foundation turns rubbish into legs



soft drink can

Credit: Wikimedia

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NAKHON PATHOM: Twelve-year-old Matoha Dosare was born with no right leg, but thanks to recycled soft drink cans and some old stockings, he now has a new limb and new-found independence.

He is one of thousands of people given artificial limbs by the Prostheses Foundation, which uses unique techniques and some salvaged materials to provide cheaply-made prosthetics to Thais who have nowhere else to go.

Matoha's local hospital in the far southern Yala province could not keep up building complicated new legs to match his growth spurts, so the schoolboy travelled to a temple in Nakhon Pathom, a province just west of Bangkok.

"If he doesn't have that leg, I have to carry him to the restroom and do everything for him," said Matoha's mother, 46-year-old Menah Jeloh.

"Now he can do it by himself."

Matoha has had three new legs fitted in the last two years, with the metal in the joints coming from the donated bottle caps and tins. The nylon from the stockings is used in the sculpting process to help form the legs.

The Prostheses Foundation was founded in 1992 with a royal grant, and goes to hospitals and temples throughout the kingdom to give people the free legs.

Foundation vice chairman Thamrongrat Keokan said that the people they help are missing limbs for a variety of reasons, including car accidents, birth defects, diabetes and, along the border areas, landmines.

In 17 years, the foundation says it has given away more than 30,000 legs, and once eared a place in the Guinness Book of World Records for producing more than 600 legs in one year.

It is the recycled materials that make the project workable, Thamrongrat said, as they they keep costs down and allow the foundation to make and distribute more legs.

The foundation asks people to donate materials that can be used in the limbs, such as beer cans and aluminium pots.

A prosthetic for below the knee costs the foundation 1,000 baht (about $28) to make, Thamrongrat said. It would cost the government 10,000 baht to build a similar one.

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