Three leading members of a Victoria-based charity who call a lab at UVic home just returned from a trip to Ukraine in which they provided prosthetic limbs for soldiers and victims of war who lost limbs to the ongoing strife between Ukraine and their Russian invaders.
The Victoria Hand Project was established in 2015 as a nation-wide non-profit organization and charity whose mission is to provide affordable and life-altering 3D printed prosthetic limbs to those in need across the globe.
In recent years, they have continued their worldwide work, while focussing on aiding Ukrainian soldiers and victims of war who desperately need them. Since all Ukraine’s prosthetic factories and labs have been destroyed by Russian invaders, many injured were left wondering how and when they’d receive a new limb.
In total, the Victoria Hand Project team members who went provided eight prosthetics for folks who needed them while also training teams in the cities of Vinnytsia and Lviv.
“We brought enough materials and equipment to fit 50 people at each partner site for a total of 100 prosthetics,” said Kelly Knights, Chief Operating Officer of Victoria Hand Project.
“We tried to show as many clinic staff as possible how to use this new technology and how to build the hands, end to end.”
“So the idea was that while we could be there and fit eight people, now they’ve seen the process and they can fit however many people as needed on the ground,” she added.
Despite the nature of the visit, Knights said there was still hope in the air amongst the cities she spent time in.
“I was honestly quite anxious to go over at first,” Knights told Victoria Buzz. “I mean, it’s a country at war and you don’t really know what to expect.”
“I was really surprised because there was so much life and joy and the cities are so busy with people just living their lives.”
According to Knights, the soldiers they worked with were all grateful for the limbs they thought they may never receive due to the state of Ukraine’s prosthetics factories and the influx of people needing new limbs.
“Their stories were all really similar, right,” Knights explained. “ They’re just normal people who end up, by volunteering, in the war — they have an explosion and they lose their arm.”
“A lot of them said they were really depressed because losing a limb is like losing a part of you — you really have to start your life over in a lot of ways.”
“Lots of them said they were really optimistic and happy to be alive and happy to be learning how to live again, but with this new prosthetic arm,” she added.
The humanitarian trip Knights and her colleagues took from Victoria to Ukraine was made possible in huge part to the charity feud between Saanich and Oak Bay’s mayors, Dean Murdock and Kevin Murdoch.
Murdock and Murdoch raised money for the Victoria Hand Project which ended in an epic tea cup race on Willows Beach in which the mayor who raised less money for the charity had to use a prosthetic hand while rowing.
Saanich’s Mayor Murdock was the loser of both the fundraiser and the race.
Going forward, Knights says her team is working toward more fundraising and she hopes they will be able to open more satellite operations across the world, still focusing on Ukraine.
“We’ve fundraised enough for 100 people to receive hands, but any extra fundraising on top of that is great because it means we can get more materials in place for more people after that,” Knights said.
“We also really would like to establish some satellite clinics in some other parts of the country, like Kviv of course, the capital, it’s be really great to get them a printer and a computer.”
The Victoria Hand Project is always accepting donations on their website for those who can contribute to their humanitarian efforts.