Tuesday 7th June, Olivia Giles on 500 Miles Charity

One of the most inspiration Speakers we have had in recent years visited us this week. Olivia Giles whose Charity 500 Miles by-line is “getting people moving” certainly moved her assembled audience.

Colin Vooght, Olivia Giles & President Elect, Harry Peters

Colin Vooght, Olivia Giles, President Elect Harry Peters

Olivia recounted her story of how she was working as a lawyer in 2002 when she caught meningococcal septicaemia and had to have her hands and feet amputated to save her life. Following a month in a coma Olivia told her audience of the day she took a first amazing step on her prosthetic legs without holding onto anything and how overwhelming it was. She had been learning to walk with support from a frame and through help from physiotherapists — then one day thought: “I can do this. Let me try!” This was a euphoric day.

After Olivia demonstrated how her prosthetic legs worked and how they fitted to her limbs, she went on to tell about her Charity work.

In 2007 Olivia founded the charity 500 Miles, which supplies prosthetic limbs to the developing countries of Malawi, Zambia & Zanzibar. The charity has two Centres in Malawi, both run in cooperation with the Malawian Ministry of Health (MoH). The first 500 Miles Centre was built in the grounds of Kamuzu Central Hospital in Lilongwe, the capital. Managed and funded for MoH by 500 Miles, it has carried out over 3,500 patient fittings since opening in March 2009. The aim is for it to serve the whole of central region of Malawi.

The second 500 Miles Centre, in the grounds of Mzuzu Central Hospital in Mzuzu in the north of Malawi, opened to patients in November 2012. The intention is for this Centre to eventually serve the whole of northern region of Malawi.

The focus of their work in Zambia is to fund and subsidise poor people all over the country to receive the prosthetic and orthotic devices they need from a high quality provider. This is currently the workshop at the Zambian Italian Orthopaedic Hospital (ZIOH) in Lusaka. 500 Miles funds remote hospitals and other organisations to send their patients to ZIOH following triage visits from its technicians.

The long-term success of all of 500 Miles’ projects depends on ensuring that there are sufficient well-trained Malawian, Zambian and Zanzibari prosthetists and orthotists to provide a high quality service which is not dependent on ongoing expatriate support. Therefore the key element of 500 Miles input in all three countries is sponsorship of training. Of the current cohort of 7 students qualifies, 500 Miles will have sponsored 17 African technicians.

Olivia thanked the Rotary Club of Ayr for the support they had given to her charity with a donation of £1800 from the Dragon Boat Race last year and also £500 from the Big Dinner which was a Safari type supper held in Rotarians’ own homes

The host for the evening, Colin Vooght have an excellent vote of thanks for this inspirational and awe inspiring story.!