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East Texans Target African Country To Help Amputees

High above the mountain top, 6,000 feet above sea level, sits Kijabe, Kenya. The small village is where the L.E.G.S. team from LeTourneau University has set its sights to give Kenyan amputees a gift...one we sometimes take for granted. David Eaton, senior engineering major at LeTourneau, says, "Basically you have the socket that's made out of fiberglass that costs about $15.00. The next thing you have is the knee. The delroid used in this costs about $15.00, the bolts cost about $5.00. The aluminum tubing costs about $3.50. Finally the foot costs about $22.00 in the U.S." The low-cost prosthetic is created to provide similar capabilities as a U.S. prosthetic and its durability is especially important. Driving through the country it's not uncommon to see people walking to their destination. The average Kenyan walks 10 to 15 miles per day. Many amputees there use a prosthetic known as a sach foot to get around, but it does not bend at the knee. "So they're walking around like this their entire life," says Eaton, describing what it's like to walk with a sach foot. "It's going to cause major problems especially for the development of your growth, in your hips, your back, in your rear end area. So major issues."

Kijabe is home to the Bethany Crippled Children's Center, where birth defects, accidents even land mines, leave many children in need of a limb. L.E.G.S. will be fitting fifteen children during their visit there. The challenge is the limited amount of time they have to do it. "It takes a lot of work to make a socket that someone feels really comfortable in," says Dr. Roger V. Gonzalez, L.E.G.S. Director and professor at LeTourneau University. "And if you can't make a socket fit comfortably and align correctly, it doesn't matter how good our prosthetic is. That's important and we have to make sure that we can do it well but we can do it in a reasonable amount of time frame." During a preliminary visit to Kenya back in December, L.E.G.S. tested their creation on one amputee in particular, who reminded the team of East Texas students they have something very special on their hands. "Through your love, concern, efforts Christ has made me able to walk again," says Eaton reading a letter from an amputee they helped in Kenya. "You've really become my major this Christmas. Your legs project has brought and become a physical Christ touch. I am so glad God has blessed the work of your hands. May he expand you everyday." Eaton adds, "As Christians at a Christian university this [project] is part of loving God will all of our mind, with all of our strength and all of our abilities and glory to Him for this project. We still have a long way to go and a lot of big dreams." And for amputees in a poverty-stricken society, those dreams will become a reality...one step at a time.

KLTV 7 Anchor/Reporter Christine Nelson and KLTV 7 Photographer Kevin Maples are in Kenya with the LeTourneau students for this groundbreaking assignment. A written and photographic diary is available at kltv.com.

Christine Nelson reporting. cnelson@kltv.com

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