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Spotlight on Sierra Leone – Meet Alimatu

Introducing the first in a series of interviews with individuals who have been supported through our Sierra Leone project.


Alimatu with Koalaa team and her Pastor

Globally, there remains a significant need for affordable and comfortable prosthetics that can aid independence, inclusivity and health equity. This is particularly true in areas that have experienced conflict, and within lower/middle income countries. 


Working with governments, charities and other key partners on the ground to provide access to our prosthetics, in areas of the world that need them the most, is the focus of our dedicated Global Access Team. 


We have been lucky enough to secure a grant as part of the Assistive Technology Impact Fund (ATIF), under the banner of AT2030, which aims to increase access to assistive technology of all kinds, all over the world. 


The ATIF grant focuses on Africa and so in 2021 we began work on our first project in the region, in Sierra Leone. The country has a disproportionately high number of amputees, due to its recent history of civil war but also other factors, such as road traffic accidents. As well as a percentage of individuals born with a congenital limb difference.


There is a significant need for prosthetics, coupled with a lack of access and also a strong stigma around having limb differences. Working with key partners, we hope to change that.


You can find out more about the project here.

 

Meet Alimatu


Photo of Alimatu smiling looking away from the camera

Alimatu is 20 years old and lives in Freetown, Sierra Leone. Born with a below elbow limb difference, meaning her left arm did not develop fully at birth.


Alimatu is currently at university studying finance. She was first introduced to Koalaa in 2021, through a local Pastor.


We spoke to Alimatu on our recent visit to Sierra Leone, to find out more about her experiences growing up with a limb difference and what she thinks of her Koalaa ALX.


What was it like growing up with a limb difference?

It was not easy. Back in primary school, some kids would see me and they'd start running away. Some would cry, thinking that I'm so different to them. And some would even mock me. 


I found it difficult to make friends but I had my mum with me. She was always there to build me up and kept telling me that I was unique and that I don't have to try to be liked. She was my best friend. 


Some people still mock me, but I don't mind, I'm already used to that. I don't consider myself as that different from anyone. I consider us the same. 


I'm the kind of person who doesn't enjoy lazing around. I love being outdoors and I love helping out with chores - even when my Aunt tells me not to. I don't like it when people help me too much. I love it when I do things by myself. 


How did you hear about Koalaa prosthetics?

I first heard about Koalaa from Pastor Finney and I was really excited.


After I met Pastor Finney, I started mingling with others who have limb differences like me and I started building up my confidence. Now, I can be anywhere and I don't feel that shy. I was born like this, so I consider myself unique. 


I am used to doing things without a prosthetic and my family members know that I stopped being shy a long time ago. But I told them, I just want to give it a try. Let's see how it goes.


When I first started using my Koalaa, I wanted to try so many things! Like when they explained to me all the things I can try with it, I wanted to try them all! 


I took a pen and a book and I started writing. I tried using it to brush my teeth and there was a time I used a broom. It was kind of fun doing new things with it. I just wanted to know how it works and it was kind of cool.


I still find it strange to use but I’m getting used to it. I use it to do laundry, scraping fish. I've tried so many things with it!



Having a limb difference in Sierra Leone

 

Some people think we must try to fit in, but we just have to be ourselves. We try our best to make friends with those who think we are different, and they refuse. So, I don't think there is any need for us to be around them. 


I love to mingle with people that see me. People who love me for who I am. This is me and no matter what anyone says, this is still me. Nothing is going to change that. 


I love myself the way I am, and I want all those who are out there like me to think that they don't have to be so shy. Just have the confidence that this is how we are and the way we are. We are special. 

 

You can read the other blogs in this series:

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