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Being disabled doesn’t mean you can’t challenge yourself – Legs4Africa

As the world gears up for the first day of the Tokyo Paralympics, here at Ucan2 Magazine we are championing on all the Paralympians who will be participating. Having a disability doesn’t mean you can’t challenge yourself and go onto great things and the Paralympics is one such platform that showcases this. Coinciding with the first day is the launch of an amazing charities fundraising campaign: Leg up, raising money to help the people of Gambia. 

Legs4Africa was established in 2013 after founder Tom Williams took a trip to The Gambia. Tom was introduced to a gentleman called Paul who needed a prosthetic leg urgently, and his search began. Once back in the UK, Tom was able to successfully source a prosthetic leg for Paul. During this process, he discovered that access to affordable prosthetic legs was a problem faced by over a million people with limb differences on the African continent.

Evie Dickinson, Fundraising and Communications Manager at Legs4Africa has been at the forefront of raising awareness and speaking with various organisations to encourage individuals to recycle their prosthetics to give people their independence back, she comments:

Since 2014, our charity has recycled hundreds of prosthetic legs that would have otherwise, unbelievably, ended up in landfill. Our work has enabled us to help over 9,000 people in sub-Saharan Africa to be active once again. Aside from providing this practical aid, we have also been able to support community engagement and emotional rehabilitation. When you lose a leg through illness or an accident the trauma is significant. Through our one to one and group programmes we are able to provide holistic support to those that need it most. 

Legs4Africa - Gambian man with disability

We know, first hand, how much our work is helping many people in Africa rebuild their lives, literally one step at a time and we want to do more.

We have been fortunate to gain the support of Paralympians Julie Rogers (Team GB sprinter) and wheelchair basketball athlete Joe Beswick, (former Team GB, now representing Germany,) which has given us the inspiration for our fundraising campaign.

Giving people the ultimate Leg Up

On Tuesday August 24th, 2021, to coincide with the first day of the Tokyo Paralympics, we are launching our biggest ever fundraising campaign: Leg Up, with the ultimate aim of raising over £100,000 to continue our vital rehabilitation programmes in The Gambia.

This campaign will run until December 24th, online and offline and is being match funded by a generous and modest long-term friend of Legs4Africa who wishes to remain anonymous, meaning every penny donated is doubled.

Over the four months we hope to shine a light on limb difference, change public perceptions of disability, and ultimately raise £100,000 for our crucial programmes in The Gambia. We want to encourage as many people as possible to be a part of Legs4Africa’s legacy and give as many people as we can in The Gambia the ultimate leg up. 

Our Paralympians sporting experience

Julie Rogers’ life transformed once she became involved in competitive sports, as she states:
“I originally got into disability sport as a way to get back to being healthy and fit – following a period of isolation as a child. I did all sorts of sports growing up, including swimming and martial arts. My twin brother (able bodied) was a constant motivation and encouraged me to be active – he did everything competitively! I drew away from sport when I felt I was different to my peers and got pretty unfit between ages 7-10. I tried sitting volleyball when I was 10 and was selected to train with the GB women’s squad, this then resulted in my selection for the London 2012 Paralympic Games. I felt comfortable in this environment, and this facilitated a growth in mindset, confidence as well as my physical ability to be a stronger human.”

Julie Rodgers - Paralympian

“Following the games, at just 13 years old, I was keen for a new challenge. I was given a running blade and the rest has been history. I’ve been fortunate enough to participate as a 100m sprinter at the World Junior Champs, Rio 2016 Paralympics and London 2017 World Champs. Having the opportunity to take part in sport, whether it’s a level playing field amongst para sport or having the freedom to be active in local community events is extremely rewarding – the benefits in all aspects of life isn’t one to be underestimated.”

“For those wanting to get into sport, I’d say the hardest part is figuring out what you’d like to do! But that’s offset by the fact you’re not limited to any one thing. The easy part is reaching out to relevant sports clubs/groups and just going for it. Different sports do different things, but Google is an awesome tool. Communities are more accepting than you may think and having a limb difference doesn’t dictate or determine your ability to get involved and get better. Everybody within a sport at whatever level, is there to better themselves and all things positive. So be fearless and have fun!”

“The value and freedom a prosthesis gives to an amputee is something that is definitely taken for granted. The reality of others not having the same privilege has to be changed, which is why I think Legs4Africa is such a great charity to get behind.”
We have been working with Julie Rogers since 2019, when she donated a bag full of children’s prosthetic legs. In May 2020 she became our official ambassador and has been influential in the planning and launch of the Leg Up campaign.

Julie continues:

“During the Paralympics, these wonderful superhumans get to show exactly what they’re capable of, it’s really important for us to donate to Legs4Africa to support Leg Up throughout this period because it’s literally giving people in Africa the opportunity to take their first step into an active lifestyle.”

Wheelchair sport

Joe Bestwick didn’t come from a particularly sporty family, but his grandad encouraged him to be active and try different sports. It took a letter from his local wheelchair basketball team to his village school to change his life forever, as he explains:

“The first time I tried basketball I really didn’t like it! I felt completely out of my depth as everyone around me was so much stronger and faster. But thankfully my mum encouraged me to go back and try again a few weeks later and from there on out I slowly started falling in love with the sport.”

“In the beginning it wasn’t a goal of mine to play internationally, I was completely content just playing for fun. At around sixteen or seventeen I was invited to try-outs for the GB U23 team, and it was at that point I saw that there was maybe a pathway within the sport to compete at more intermediate levels and I became a lot more focused on the next steps.”

“I’m generally quite self-motivated and really enjoy the day-to-day routine of training and working hard. Trying to be better than I was last week or last month is usually enough motivation for me, but of course having the chance to compete in the Tokyo Paralympics definitely adds a little something to that.”

What makes Legs4Africa so special is hearing the inspirational stories from our Paralympians and from those we’re helping in sub-Saharan Africa. I’m extremely proud of what we’ve achieved over the years. To find out how you can get involved and give people the ultimate Leg Up this autumn, head to our dedicated page here.

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