Jaipur Foot is an India-based nonprofit organization that provides lightweight, low-cost, durable, and realistic foot and below the knee prosthesis pan-India and abroad to areas of the Middle East, South East Asia, and South America.
The Bhagwan Mahaveer Viklang Sahayata Samiti (BMVSS) began in 1975 when Dr Mehta, founder and chief president, was the victim of dangerous car accident where one of his legs was crushed. Doctors speculated that it would have to be amputated. Though they eventually found a solution to save his limb, Dr Mehta had come to a realization that changed his perspective– and life. The thought of living life without his leg had opened his eyes to the struggles of the disabled in developing nations.
BMVSS is not affiliated with any religious group, any political group, or any government group– their goal is to simply, “to ensure the physical, economic and social rehabilitation of the disabled, to enable them to regain their mobility and dignity and become self-respecting and productive members of society, ie, in short, restoring the glory of life” (Vision Statement).
The limbs they provide are shockingly realistic. Made from micro-fibre, rubber, and wooden center poles the Jaipur leg is a medium maple color, almost exactly that of what we imagine the color of “Indian” (for lack of a better, more politically correct word) skin. They provide both prosthesis that require installment as well as those that can be fit to the knee in one day.
The Jaipur foot, inspiration for the name of the movement, is filled with bolts to create joints for realistic foot movement.
This NGO has even collaborated with Stanford University to recreate the Stanford-Jaipur knee, hailed by Time in 2009, which has since been fitted on over 5,000 patients.
A true mark of a successful movement for social change, in my eyes, is one started by members of the very nation it is meant to help. It sends a message that not only do we all have the ability to rise up and give back, but that we each have the ability to be critical of our society and to see it through our own experience and create change in a unique way.
Dr Mehta’s experience would not have had quite the same effect on a citizen of the US or Europe. In nations with insurance or public health care, outsourced physical labor, and reduced birth defects, life with a ghost limb doesn’t always cross our minds.
But for the people of India, the Philippines and South America whose livelihood, and the livelihood of their family, is based off of their physical strength and ability to work, life without a limb must feel like a death sentence.
We are all satisfied through work– all humans feel the need to do, and Dr Mehta works to restore this satisfaction through out the world to people who would not be able to either have it at all or restore it again. Their is a sense of hope that goes with each limb– hope to a father that he can return to work, hope to mother that she can continue to provide, hope to a child that they can play and work just like everyone else.