A New Mission of Hope in Belize

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Ninety percent of the world have access to only 10 percent of the world's medical resources, according to the International Hospital for Children. The people of Belize-lacking a medical infrastructure and trained personnel to serve their critical health needs-are part of this 90 percent.

Belizean people who have amputated limbs often lose hope of ever living a normal life again. One endeavor-Project Hope-Belize—seeks to restore hope to individuals with amputated limbs and mobility challenges.

Rob Kistenberg, MPH, CP, LP, FAAOP, prosthetics coordinator for the master of science program in prosthetics and orthotics at the Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, is the founder of Project Hope-Belize. Since 2003, more than 100 Belizeans have been fitted with free prosthetic limbs at Project Hope's clinic in Orange Walk Town.

Michael Malagari treats a child in one of Belize's rainforest villages.

Because it is the only clinic in the entire country that treats patients with amputated limbs, those who live deep in the country's jungles must travel several hours to receive treatment at the clinic. Prosthetic mission teams travel to Orange Walk Town several times each year, but never before has an orthotics team made the journey. For its October 2010 mission, Kistenberg decided to expand the medical services to Belize to also include orthotic treatment.

Kistenberg called on Orthotic Solutions, with offices in Frederick, Maryland, and Fairfax, Virginia, to help him put together a pediatric orthotic team to serve the Belize clinic. The Orthotic Solutions' Project Hope team included Michael Malagari, CO, FAAOP; Josh Utay, CPO; and Craig Violette, CTO. The trio spent a week at the clinic, evaluating, casting, fabricating, modifying, and fitting various orthoses.

"I couldn't let my team miss the opportunity to use their orthotic training and skills to aid the children of Belize," Malagari said.

As part of their routine, the Orthotic Solutions team made house calls into the rainforest and witnessed firsthand the challenges that the people of Belize face. Though providing sustainable orthotic solutions for this population presented its own set of difficulties, Malagari and his team proved equal to the task.

"Fabricating and fitting quality, custom-made orthoses is a challenge no matter where the work is done, but to give patients the quality care they need while working in developing nations is especially challenging," Malagari said. However, he added, "Volunteers staff this clinic, and they aren't afraid to try new methods, work long hours, and use their creativity and energy to get the job done. Just ask Adrian Camara, the clinical manager at the clinic. He's a bilateral above the knee amputee and knows firsthand that the volunteers make the difference.

"The people touch your hearts, and they are grateful for the little that we provide," Malagari continued. "We are proud to have been the first pediatric orthotic team at the clinic."

Project Hope-Belize is supported by donations from corporations and individuals in the United States and in Belize.

For more information, visit Sonrie Ministries.