This blog is written by volunteer Rebecca Davies
One of the many things I feel I have learned as a healthcare volunteer in Malawi is how to maximise resources, making the most out of what is available and creating outcomes I might not have imagined possible at home. An example I would like to share happened last month when RIPPLE Africa’s Volunteer Projects Manager Dan introduced me to Mwayiwawo (Lucky), an 11 year old child with right hemiparesis as a result of Meningitis who lives in Nkhungwe, 7km south of Mwaya.
Lucky used to receive regular physiotherapy from Collins, RIPPLE Africa’s Senior Healthcare Coordinator, until he sadly passed away last year. Since then no specialist care has been available and her right arm and leg have regressed considerably, limiting her range of motion and causing discomfort during transfers.
Although what Lucky really needs is for regular physiotherapy to become available, she could also benefit from wearing an arm splint for a few hours each day to prevent further progress of her contracted wrist and hand. I gave it some thought and eventually came up with a design for an arm splint made from materials that are easily found locally.
Although my sewing isn’t great at all I was quite happy with the end result, and the day Dan and I revisited Lucky and her family to give her the new arm splint was really gratifying. Her mother immediately recognized what it was for, saying that Lucky had owned a rigid plastic version when she was 6 years old that she had since grown out of. Once fitted, it was good to see that Lucky tolerated it really well and that her wrist and hand relaxed in to a better position.
Arm splint foam template
To make the splint I collected:
- ½ metre of drain pipe (11cm wide)
- Sponge/Foam for padding (¼ inch thick)
- 1m2 of Chitenge (material)
- ½ metre of Velcro
Total weight of finished product: 90g (weighed on Mwaya’s kitchen scales to the amusement of the kitchen staff).
- 1m of drain pipe: MKW1.000. 5 metre-long drain pipes are sold individually in Mzuzu for aprox. MKW5.000 (remember to take your haggling hat with you!).
Fellow volunteer Laura and I were debating how we were going to transport a whopping 5m of drain pipe back to Mwaya in a Malawian minibus when we luckily met somebody in the shop who bought the other 4 metres.
- Foam for padding: this was given to me by the Lowani Ladies Sewing Circle, but is available in Mzuzu sold in 2m2 pieces.
- 1m2 of Chitenge (material): MKW575. In Mzuzu we paid MKW2.300 for 4m of material. This is the best price we have been able to find.
- ½ m of Velcro: MKW75. Bought from Matete’s tailor Patrick.
Total Cost = MKW1.650 / £1.80 / USD 2.60
If you were to buy a professional, shop-bought splint you’d be looking at spending at least £70, so the £1.80 option which is equally as effective would not only save you money, but with the money saved, you’d be able to make 34 more splints to help 34 more children.
It’s amazing what you can create and achieve when faced with limited resources.
A happy Lucky wearing the arm splint