A group of U.S. credit unions and supporting organizations have come together to assemble prosthetic hands to help civilians in northern Afghanistan who have lost limbs to land mines, through conflict, disease, and birth defects. With the World Council of Credit Unions’ (WOCCU) assistance, the group will soon be distributing the prostheses through Afghanistan’s Islamic Investment and Finance Cooperatives (IIFCs). Individuals who register with IIFC will receive the hands free-of-charge and do not need to be IIFC members.
The Credit Union Helping Hands™ program, launched by the Credit Union Philanthropy Group (CUPG), has been assembling and distributing LN-4 transradial prosthetic hands for those in need through Rotary International for three years. The LN-4 prosthetic hand is a low-cost, light, durable, functional prosthesis that was developed by industrial designer Ernie Meadows and is distributed by the Ellen Meadows Prosthetic Hand Foundation, a philanthropic organization he and his wife named after their daughter, who died in a car accident at the age of 18.
“The goal of credit unions is to foster economic empowerment and growth for their members, thereby helping strengthen the communities in which they live,” said Brian Branch, WOCCU president and CEO. “We are pleased that IIFCs in Afghanistan have found yet another way to help meet what for some members is their most critical need.”
Last year, Rotary International arranged for several IIFC volunteers, to travel to Ahmedabad, India, for prosthetic-fitting training sessions. Credit union consulting firm DDJ Myers, headquartered in Phoenix, Arizona, financed the trip. Those volunteers, in turn, will train other volunteers throughout Afghanistan to fit the prosthetic hands on their recipients.
“The primary value of the hands is that they enable the user to grasp,” said Frank Hackney, CUPG founder. “The ability to grasp allows recipients to hold tools or utensils, steer a bike or an automobile, and, in many cases, increases their ability to work.”
Participants from about 25 credit unions have already assembled as many as 100 hands. An initial shipment of 50 hands will be shipped during the first quarter of 2012 once the initial demand has been determined, Hackney said.