Life and limb

On the heels of its success in Thailand, the Thai Industrialist Development Forum is helping poor amputees in other countries

Story And Pictures By Chompoo Trakullertsathien

During a short break in training, Woothiwong Toatong, the director of the Thai Industrialist Development Forum, talks with one of the amputees _ 50-year-old Yang Yong whose legs were amputated because of a train accident.

On October 29, Li Jing Guang's dream came true-to the sound of applause echoing in Huaxia Technical High School-as he gradually placed his feet upon the floor. He tried to balance himself and stand upright. Eventually, he did.

His first step brought smiles and delight to many people who witnessed this memorable event.

Overwhelmed, Li Jing Guang's grandfather and grandmother dashed to their grandson and burst into tears after waiting patiently for two days while he had practiced. Many approached the 14-year-old amputee and tapped gently on his shoulder as a way to boost his morale.

Other amputees, queuing up for their turn at walking, looked excited and hopeful.

Though learning how to walk is part of most every child's regular development, Li Jing Guang lost his legs-and his mother-in a train accident when he was two years old. All he has ever been able to do in the years since is move around on his knees.

'We were extremely anguished when we saw our grandson moving around. If possible, we would have given him our legs in order to ease his pain. But we couldn't. We also couldn't afford expensive artificial legs," said 60-year-old Ja La Shie, Li Jing Guang's grandmother, whose love for her grandson is evident.

Born into a poor family, prosthetic devices were out of the question. All that could be done to help the boy move around was provide pants with leather-reinforced knees. Still, long distances were out of the question.

His grandfather served as Li Jing Guang's "functional legs." It was a common scene for his Kunming neighbors to spot the 64-year-old Lee Yong Kuo carrying his 58-kilogramme grandson on his back.

"I carried him on my back when he went to school. The trip took about 20 minutes. Though it was exhaustion, I felt good to help him. It helped ease his distress. We felt so sorry that couldn't buy him prosthetics, but we always hoped we could someday."

Thanks to the Thai Industrialist Development Forum (TIDF), that hope became