All New African Voices Change Makers- Prosthetics

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CNN International’s African Voices is entering a new era in its quest to profile outstanding individuals across the continent. Having celebrated ten years of the show, this new chapter focuses on the stories of Changemakers – people doing positive and innovative things that impact communities and change lives and is hosted by AritOkpo.

This week the programme highlights the work of Crystal Chigbu, a Nigerian who is changing lives by providing prosthetic limbs for amputated children. The cause is close to her heart after dealing with her own daughter’s limb loss. Chigbu tells CNN about the emotional decision to amputate her daughter’s leg, “It wasn’t an easy decision at all, and I would cry every day.”

During this worrying time, Chigbu learned that many people in Nigeria were going through the same situation and many of those had far fewer resources than her family, she explains,“In all of this I realised that the concern that most (families) had was how they were going to be able to fund the prosthesis.” This realisation made Chigbu think about what she could do to help these other children, “What if I’m able to put resources together from my friends and give those children limbs.”

Chigbu started by helping just one child, but the experience was profoundly affecting. She describes how this inspired and motivated her to help more children, “For me, that was life-changing and transforming and all I wanted to do was put a smile on another person’s face.”

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The IREDE Foundation was established through Chigbu’s ambition to help others. To date, the charity has provided 82 children with 115 prosthetic limbs and expects to have provided 50 more limbs by the end of the year. Chigbu tells host AritOkpo the meaning behind the foundation’s name, “Irede means goodness has come. And my daughter’s cultural name is Irededouaude that means the goodness of the Lord has come. So, basically, it was coined from her name and also thinking what happens to you once you get a prosthetic limb and you can now walk again or use your hand again, then goodness has come to you.”

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Chigbu’s work is providing an essential service for children and their families and giving them hope. She describes the feeling she gets seeing children use their new prosthetic for the first time, “The exciting moment is when the child gets the limb eventually because they really can’t believe it and then they are thinking about what they can do. It’s priceless.”

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African Voices also meets another Changemaker – Dr Gbolahan Ayo Sasonaa Nigerian who makes prosthetics. He works in the United States but felt a duty to provide his services to his home country. Dr Sasona explains his decision, “The need for prosthetics is so high, not only in Nigeria but probably in the whole African continent. So, it was my way of giving back to Nigeria.”

 

These prosthetics are still expensive and Dr Sasona is working hard to try and help those who can’t afford his products. He tells CNN about his hopes for the future, “My dream is for one-day prosthetic devices to be available at a much lower cost. (Losing a limb) should not stop anybody from trying to achieve whatever it is they have in mind. So, my goal is to be able to bring the cost of prosthetics down and make it affordable to the generality of the public.”

Chigbu also has big ambitions for the future and she talks about her foundation’s aims, “Our goal is to have ten thousand people basically in the next three years talking about the inclusiveness of children that have been amputated around the world and raise champions of child amputees.”

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