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Kennedy walks with 3D-printed braces, rehabilitation care


Kennedy has cerebral palsy. After years of being unable to stand or walk, braces and physical therapy have helped him achieve incredible progress.

Kennedy stands alone and looks at the camera, smiling. He's wearing braces on his legs. To the left, we can make out Paul Lokiru and some boxes in the background.

Nine-year-old Kennedy can walk on his own. Uganda, June 2023. | © Crolle Agency / HI

Kennedy, 9, is from South Sudan. He and his family sought refuge in Uganda, where he first met Humanity & Inclusion's team in 2020. HI has since provided him with leg braces and physical therapy sessions. Three years later, Kennedy's courage and determination have empowered him to face his greatest challenge: walking on his own.

Living with cerebral palsy in a refugee camp

Paul, Esther and Kennedy doing physiotherapy exercises in June 2023 © Crolle Agency / HIIn 2016, Kennedy was just nine months old when his family fled the conflict in South Sudan. Arriving in Uganda, they settled in the Rhino refugee camp in the Arua district in the northwest of the country. Kennedy lives there with his mother and two other children.

Kennedy, who has cerebral palsy, had never had physical therapy before. Although he could eat, drink and hear relatively easily, he could not speak or walk. His dexterity was limited and holding small objects was a real struggle for him.

“It was very difficult for me,” said his mother, Esther Ariye. “For four years, I had to carry Kennedy on my back all the time. He couldn’t stand on his own and didn’t even crawl around on all fours.”

Kennedy was identified by community volunteers in February 2020. After an assessment, HI’s teams enrolled him in the 3D Petra project, a revolutionary project that uses 3D-printing technology to produce custom-made braces and artificial limbs. The little boy was given two braces for his ankles and feet.

Setting Kennedy up for success

In 2021, thanks to his braces and rehabilitation sessions with Paul Lokiru, a physical therapist with HI, Kennedy was able to stand. He could move around with a walker and play with other children. To ensure that the boy’s treatment continued, Paul taught Esther some physical therapy exercises that she could do at home with her son. Read more about what motivates Paul's work in Uganda.A young Black boy walks on his own. He's wearing braces on his legs.

“By passing on this knowledge to the family, we allow continuity of service even when we’re not there because our intervention area is vast and we can’t drop by very often. This is essential for follow-up – Kennedy is a prime example. When I came back to see him a few months ago, I noticed that he could walk on his own without needing his walker,” Paul explains.

Today, Kennedy can walk on his own without help. It’s a huge success! He can also express himself, which allows him to communicate with his family and friends.

“Before, Kennedy couldn’t hold anything in his hands. He is now able to feed himself, stand, walk around and play with his neighbors. That makes me so happy! At the time, I spent many days and nights biting my nails worrying about him but I now know that all my children are happy,” Esther says.

Thinking about the future

Kennedy and Esther in June 2023 © Crolle Agency / HIKennedy has made tremendous progress, but he and his family do not intend to stop just yet. He must now work on his posture and learn to walk faster. As he grows, his braces will have to be replaced. One day, he hopes to enroll in school.

“I would like Kennedy to go to a special school where they’ll take good care of him. It would still be too difficult for me to take him to and from school every day,” Esther explains.

Kennedy walks and plays soccer with his friends. Kennedy is nurturing his dreams for the future: when he grows up, he will walk, run, and build houses.

The 3D Petra and rehabilitation project has been operating in the Rhino, Omugo and Imvepi camps since July 2021. It uses innovative 3D-printing technology to provide orthopedic fittings and rehabilitation services for refugees who live in these camps. The project is being run in partnership with CoRSU and Arua Hospital.

Date published: 08/08/23


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