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Longini takes his first steps on new artificial limbs


For 18 months, Longini was unable to walk; he had outgrown his artificial limbs and Covid-19 lockdowns prevented him from getting new ones. If he was going to get back on track, Longini needed replacements as soon as possible.

A smiling young boy who does not have legs sits on a bed in a room full of beds. His crutches and artificial legs are beside him.

Longini and his new artificial legs and crutches. | © S. Wohlfahrt / HI

Longini, now 9, was born with lower limb deformities. When he was 3 months old, his mother, Elisabeth, took him to the nearest hospital, and he was referred to an orthopedic hospital in Ririma. As other children took their first steps, Longini was still unable to walk. When he was 3 years old, doctors performed a double amputation so he could wear artificial limbs later in life.

In between working odd jobs to support Longini and his younger brother, Elisabeth sought out educational opportunities for Longini. After years of searching, she found HVP-Gatagara—a leading center for the rehabilitation and education of people with disabilities in Rwanda. More than 30 miles from their home, the center includes an inclusive boarding school. At 6 years old, Longini was finally enrolled in school.

But Longini’s greatest dream was to learn to walk.

At nearly $900 each, artificial limbs are particularly expensive in Rwanda. Few patients can afford the assistance devices, including Longini’s family. Humanity & Inclusion stepped up to help. The complex housing Longini’s school also includes a rehabilitation center and orthopedic-fitting workshop supported by Humanity & Inclusion. For families unable to afford care, Humanity & Inclusion provides financial assistance.

Fitted with two custom-made artificial limbs, Longini took his first ever steps as a 7-year-old. In no time, he was running around and playing enthusiastically with his friends. His life changed completely.

As a growing boy, Longini regularly needs new artificial limbs. Unfortunately, the Covid-19 pandemic and the strict measures taken by the government to protect the population meant the orthopedic center had to close its doors. Longini outgrew his worn devices, and it was 18 months before he could be fitted with new ones in November 2021. Longini will need rehabilitation care and artificial limbs for the rest of his life.

A small Black boy wearing a blue school uniform and artificial legs smiles while walking between green parallel bars

‘A joy to watch him now’

Longini is in his second year of primary school, where he lives most of the time.

“When he comes home for the holidays, he can do small jobs around the house, like the dishes or sweeping the courtyard,” Elisabeth adds. “He loves being with other people, going out and running about the local streets with them. All children like him.”

A hard-working student, Longini repeatedly tells his mother he wants to finish his studies so he can get a good job, earn money and support his family.

“My son’s life hasn’t always been easy but it’s a joy to watch him now,” Elisabeth says. “It’s wonderful he’s included with other children. It’s so uplifting.”

Date published: 03/01/22


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