Helping Children with Limb Disabilities: We are proud to support the efforts of 2013 Health Award Honoree Mead Welles and his program A Leg To Stand On (ALTSO). This post includes reflections from A.J. Warco, Director of Programs for ALTSO. His responsibilities have led him across the globe, visiting children with various limb disabilities, including Razoni from Bangladesh.
Razoni was just 6 years old when she stepped off a rickshaw on her way to school and significantly altered her life forever. Tragically, Razoni was struck from behind by a passing vehicle, causing severe damage to her leg. The result of the incident was a below-the-knee amputation.
In Bangladesh, along with many other developing countries, there is a certain social stigma against individuals with disabilities. Compound that with her family’s inability to afford treatment and Razoni faced a long 9 years of challenges — not the least of which included adjusting to life with only one leg — before finally receiving a prosthetic limb.
It was in these circumstances that A.J. met Razoni. Despite her challenges, he was surprised by her optimism and happy demeanor. Recently, we asked A.J. to reflect on first meeting Razoni back in 2011. The following are his own words. All photography is used with permission from A.J. Warco’s website, casteintotheshadows.com.
In late 2011, following a nearly 36-hour journey into western Bangladesh filled with countless automobile horns, sweltering heat waves and traffic beyond any Westerner’s comprehension, I met Razoni, a poor village girl living in a remote village of Chuadanga, Bangladesh — an area we in America might refer to as “off the grid.”
Despite not having electricity, running water, proper sanitation or even a refrigerator, Razoni was always smiling, upbeat and positive. Her optimism was infectious, making me realize how the bubble I came from so easily took for granted the abundance of modern conveniences that surround us.
I was intrigued and inspired by this young woman. She did not let the fact that her chances of success decreased (statistically speaking) when her leg was taken from her at the age of 6. She did not let the fact that she was a female living in a patriarchal society stop her from excelling in her studies (her English skills were far above par). Despite having so many obstacles in front of her, it was clear that Razoni took every step forward with appreciation and determination to succeed.
After meeting and spending most of the afternoon with Razoni and her family, I so gratefully began to realize that the children I meet along the way (as ALTSO’s Director of Programs) will be as much as a part of my life as their prosthetic limbs or orthotic braces are a part of their lives.