Thank you again to everyone who attended the Gecko 6’s this year. Together with help from Slaughter and May, Gecko donated £2000 to the Meththa foundation, a charity that aim to rehabilitate disabled people in Sri Lanka. Below is a short report on the foundation’s excellent work.
Meththa Foundation Training Programme
The Meththa foundation has expanded its limb fitting and rehabilitation programme in recent years. We commenced our operations in 2010 from unused ward space given to us by the Mannar hospital. It was convenient and safe enough at that time because the Menik farm centre designated for refugee care was within easy reach and the security provided by the army was quite substantial.
Mannar is not an easily accessible town, found in one corner of the area called the Vanni. Transport is nearly impossible, particularly for our limbless patients. So we realized that only the better-resourced patients from Vanni were benefitting from our services. We then converted a newly acquired bus into a mobile workshop with the help of Rotary International and other donors. Workforce had to be doubled from 4 to 8.
As the security situation eased, and the land mines were cleared, our work was recognised by both government and charitable sources, particularly church organisations such as Oblates of Mary Immaculate (OMI). We were offered two new centres in Maho and Mankulam, which are transport hubs to the north and the east. Maho is now our fabrication unit where a large number of the new limbs are manufactured. Mankulam is run by OMI with our team providing the limb fitting service.
The workforce had to be expanded accordingly. The job involves a combination of precision engineering as well as medical prosthetic judgment. The only internationally qualified person we have is Dr Panagamuwa. A prosthetist colleague from Birmingham alternates with Pana to supervise the limb-fitting programme.
Our recruits have no qualifications. A couple of them are trained in physiotherapy. Most others are selected for their hand-eye coordination, basic engineering skills and language skills. We now have more than 20 employees total. The one thing they require is training to do the job properly. This on the job training has to be closely supervised and the two trainers from UK work round to clock to make absolutely sure that the very expensive limbs that we provide have no faults.
Succession planning is key to the continuation of the service. We have selected the most suitable physiotherapist from our cadre and have organized a prosthetic training university course for him at Salford university. This is our biggest expense. Last year our outgoings for his tuition fees (12K) and accommodation (3.6K) plus the payments to the second trainer cost us £ 30,000.00. Fortunately another Dutch donor helped us to meet this cost. To date this year’s training costs are outstanding and is a great burden on Meththa funds.
The running costs of the three Meththa centres in Sri Lanka are generally covered. Limb costs (£100 each) and staff costs are largely met by our local donors in Sri Lanka (e.g. OMI and Lebara).
Our other expenses are to provide the raw materials from UK. These include shipping of discarded limbs from UK limb fitting centres, plastic sheets for manufacture of limb sockets and aluminium for the limb shafts. The leather and vulcanized rubber is resourced from local sources in Sri Lanka. These costs are a fraction of the training costs of the workforce.
So far in the last two to three years we have supplied about 2500 new limbs to our patients. This is less than 50% of the total limbless people injured by the war. In comparison the throughput of the largest limb-fitting centre in Birmingham (with about 100 employees) is about 250 limbs per year. This gives an idea of the scale of the task. In peacetime limbs are lost in Sri Lanka due to road and jungle accidents, tumours, diabetes and infected wounds. Consequently there is a constant influx of new patients that need our attention. Furthermore most of the war wounded are young and otherwise able, wearing out the limbs much quicker than UK patients. They therefore need replacement limbs or repairs from time to time. Our task will never end but we may be able to scale down once the backlog is cleared.
This hopefully gives you an understanding of what we do and our financial issues. We are very thankful to all our donors for their continued support. For more information on Meththa, please visit our website at www.meththafoundation.org.uk.
Meththa Foundation Trustee