A Leicestershire charity worker was honoured with the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the King’s New Year Honours.
Born and brought up in Arnesby, Tom Williams, founder of Legs4Africa, was recognised for his dedication to helping thousands of Africans suffering with limb loss to walk again thanks to a unique prosthetic leg recycling initiative.
Legs4Africa, collects unwanted prosthetic limbs from limb centres and individual donors in the UK and abroad to save them from going to landfill. They are then broken down into their components to recycle them and match them with amputees in sub-Saharan Africa.
Tom started Legs4Africa after visiting the Gambia in 2013 to deliver a custom-made prosthetic leg for a friend’s father. Whilst there, he realised there must be many more unused prosthetic limbs in the UK that could be recycled and repurposed rather than simply going to landfill when they were no longer needed.
He was shocked to discover that almost 1 in 200 people suffer from limb loss in sub-Saharan Africa. Moreover, a single prosthetic leg costs close to £800, which makes it extremely difficult for individuals to obtain prosthetic legs in the African region.
When he realised in the UK alone, around 2,000 prosthetic legs go to landfill each year, he realised there must be more that could be done to not only help those in need but to reduce unnecessary wastage.
Since starting 10 years ago Legs4Africa has now shipped more than 14,000 prosthetic limbs, and works with seven grassroot organisations across Africa. Through its incredible partnerships, the charity supports projects to help individuals rebuild their lives following limb loss.
Reflecting upon the prestigious award and the difference the charity has made in the last decade, Tom said: “Receiving an OBE is a real honour and reflects the hard work and dedication of the whole Legs4Africa team over the past decade. When I first started out on this journey, I could never have imagined we would be here today, having helped to make a difference to thousands of people, saved unnecessary landfill waste and met so many amazing people.
“For me it is so important that Legs4Africa is about much more than providing a prosthetic leg. The environmental impact of rescuing the components from landfill is huge, but so is the difference a new leg can have for an individual. It is the first step in their journey, and we want to support them as they come to terms with their new path. That is why we are growing our outreach and peer support networks, providing dedicated mental health teams, social programs and specialist rehabilitation sport activities.
“Our work is helping to open up the conversation around limb loss and provides ongoing support and opportunities to those facing challenging times.
“I cannot thank everyone who has supported us so far enough, and I can’t wait to see how the project evolves and grows over the next 10 years.”
For more information on the work Legs4Africa is doing to help change people’s lives in sub-Saharan Africa or to donate unwanted prosthetic limbs to save them from landfill please visit: www.legs4africa.org