Rotarians and friends build artificial hands for landmine victims

You could have heard a pin drop as Rotarians and helpers fashioned “hands of love” at a workshop in Port Pirie.

The team was assembling artificial hands for landmine victims living in South East Asia and Sri Lanka.

It was intricate work with springs and rods, but the group was up to the task of fulfilling Rotary Club of Port Pirie president Dannielle Camporeale’s dream. See P3.

The hopes of many landmine victims were held in the pincer-like “fingers” of artificial hands put together by Rotarians and friends in the Hands-On Project.

In an intensive workshop, the volunteers assembled the hands from kits with the finished products destined for Cambodia, Laos and Sri Lanka.

They will be given to survivors who lost one or both hands after landmine explosions.

Many of the victims were digging in the dirt when the blasts happened as a result of 110 million anti-personnel devices remaining in the ground in the Third World and elsewhere.

President of the Rotary Club of Port Pirie Dannielle Camporeale hosted the project at the UnitingCare Wesley centre, in Parham Street, as her personal campaign with the support of her members.

She chose the project as her President’s Project and hopes to visit South East Asia to see the hands in action with their new owners.

“Who would have thought it would be this much fun changing a life,” she said as the volunteers threaded springs and rods into the hands.

“We have had a good time assembling them. It was the president’s passion and I saw the opportunity to make a significant difference in people’s lives.

“It was a good opportunity to engage as a community in the important work that Rotary does.”

Members of the Anglican Church joined the Rotarians in the intricate assembly work.

When the hands reach their destinations, the survivors will each receive a note that was included in the package by the assemblers.

The hands were put in decorated, zippered bags.

National project manager, Sally Charlton, of the Rotary Club of Tailem Bend, said the strap-on hands could be used to hold a pencil or a spoon.

“A man received a hand and wrote for the first time in 37 years. He drew a heart and put ‘love’ in it. Sometimes, the results are overwhelming,” she said.

“A million people have been killed and maimed by landmines – or one person every 15 minutes.

“Half these people die, either immediately from the explosion, as is the case with most children, or from blood loss and exposure.

“Everyone is vulnerable – women collecting water, children gathering firewood or playing, men working the land or tending cattle.

“Anyone who goes about their normal day in a mined area is at risk.

“Most minefields are unmarked so you may have no idea that you are in danger until it is too late.

“Landmines do not just kill and injure. They also create longer-term costs for communities.

“The hands are taken overseas by Rotary Project Volunteers and given to those in need.”