News Release

Church-Funded Donation to Revive Prosthetics Workshop in Limpopo, South Africa

The more than R6-million donation will up-skill orthotics technicians and enable the centre to produce almost 300 prosthetics next year.

Written by Nicole Annear

Over the next year, 300 people living with disabilities in Limpopo, South Africa, will soon have access to orthotic and prosthetic devices, thanks to a project funded by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in collaboration with the Limpopo Department of Health.

Church leaders, health officials and beneficiaries from the project met on Thursday, 13 April 2023, at a handover ceremony held at the newly upgraded Medical Orthotics and Prosthetics (MOP) workshop at the Pietersburg Hospital in Polokwane.

Church volunteers Elder Neil and Sister Ineke Atkins, who oversee the church’s mobility programme in Polokwane explained how the donation came about. As they met with wheelchair recipients in the area, “we found that a lot of people were in wheelchairs that shouldn’t have been in wheelchairs,” says Elder Atkins. This led them to reach out to Marie Stols, Deputy Director of the Rehabilitation Services of Pietersburg Hospital in Polokwane, who confirmed that the MOP department was 50 years old and had slipped into disrepair.

She had a vision to revive the MOP centres throughout Limpopo. “As soon as they [patients] can walk they don’t need a wheelchair,” she says.

The over R6 million donation from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints includes the donation of new equipment for the workshop and the training of four new orthotics technicians. The changes mean that next year the workshop will be able to produce 282 orthotic and prosthetic devices. The donation also includes 300 wheelchairs and 1700 walking aids. As a complimentary service, the church will also provide training for 32 departmental occupational therapists to understand how to correctly fit patients to their wheelchairs. Lastly the church will fund the training of 24 wheelchair technicians so that devices can be fixed in local centres rather than requiring the patient to travel into a metropolitan area when they need assistance.

This is the third mobility-related donation given by the church to the Limpopo government.

Dr P Ramathuba, Limpopo’s MEC of Health, who attended the handover ceremony expressed thanks for the donation. She was especially appreciative of the training that would be provided to the hospital staff. She encouraged the staff to always seek improvement. “Even when the grant is over, we should still be continuously training…so please, let's professionalise everything!”

Valery Selaelo Sekole, newly-appointed Assistant Director of Medical Prosthetics and Orthotics of Pietersburg Hospital confirmed the Church’s donation has increased her department’s output by more than 100% in one year. She says that working with the Church has been a wonderful experience. “I’m happy with the way they do things, it's really doing the Lord’s work. I love everything the Church stands for!”

Kihuluma Ngamila, a medical prosthetist and orthotist demonstrates the building of a patient’s new limb. Pietersburg Hospital, Polokwane, South Africa. April 13, 20232023 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.
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Kihuluma Sylvester Ngamila, a medical prosthetist and orthotist, has worked at the Pietersburg Hospital workshop for the past 6 months, loves his job and says it's very rewarding to see the immediate impact of his work. Ngamila assesses patients’ needs with regards to prosthetics then he enters the workshop to build the patient’s new limb.

Mechanically, this involves many technical components that must replicate the patient’s suspension and stability in order to imitate a person’s walking pattern and ensure a good posture. “Now when everything is proper, we ensure that this person walks in a desirable gait…we have to imitate what transpired when walking when you have your true limb and when you have a prosthetic limb.”

Some of the beneficiaries at the handover shared how they had benefitted from mobility devices and prosthetics. Frank Mashitisho (57), was walking home in 2020 when he was knocked over by a truck. His rehabilitation involved three months of using a walker and eight months of using crutches. Finally, in December 2022, he became a recipient of the Church’s donation and was able to receive a lower knee prosthetic. He said he gained his independence again. “I’m a person, like before.”

Solomon Ramauka (39), the founder of Beyond Disabilities SA, suffered a spinal cord injury in 2017 when a motor vehicle clipped his motorbike. He is a recipient of a newly-fitted wheelchair and says he doesn’t need assistance to disassemble it and fold it away when he is driving. Ramauka, father of two, turned activist, has a working relationship with The Church and Pietersburg Hospital. He said “I was lucky!” and adds he loves advocating for others. “Changing lives is what makes me still push life even though I’m in a wheelchair, it makes me wake up in the morning and say at least I can make a difference in someone’s life!”

President John Motimele, the District President of Limpopo, represented The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at the handover ceremony. He noted that all this was “made possible by the generous contributions of the members. They give without expecting anything in return.”

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