Christmas is a time of year when we stop to think about others. It’s a time to be grateful for what we have and the people we have to share it with. One organisation that connects people through the joy of giving at Christmas is the Santa Shoebox Project.
In 2004, a young man named Mat Bowtell was studying mechatronics at Chiba University in Japan. It was here that he tried a bionic arm and learned that the arm had cost US$1m to make. Mat was impressed with the technology but it was the high price that made him sit up and take note. That was when the seed was planted for the idea of a charity that would be founded more than a decade later.
Fast forward some years and Mat had gained a position as an engineer at Toyota. It was in his spare time, and still having his fascination for prostheses that his unusual hobby began. He’d started making prosthetic hands using 3D printers, and of course when the 3D printers boom took off, he set about getting that exorbitant price-tag down.
In 2017 when Toyota made redundancies, 36-year-old Mat made the decision to change the course of his career. Even though he had many offers of lucrative jobs, his passion became his motivation and he began creating prosthetic limbs for people in need around the world… for free! It was then that Free 3D Hands was born, an Australian charity that designs, manufactures and provides assistive devices to anyone with upper limb differences.
1 in 10,000 children are born without bones in their fingers a syndrome called symbrachydactyly, most of those children have no choice but to go without. Due to the cost of prosthetic arms, and the fact that children grow out of them very quickly, funding can be very difficult, particularly in less developed countries.
“We dream of a world where everyone has equal access to devices that will improve their quality of life – because that is the way it should be,” says Mat.
At Free 3D Hands, designs and ideas are shared with specialists collaborating with these prosthetics to make a difference and support to all people with a need. By using 3D printing techniques to manufacture custom devices at a fraction of the cost, there has been potential to eliminate lead-time and costs associated with traditional manufacturing techniques.
Mat and the dedicated team of volunteers – including his wife and their children – work out of a warehouse on Phillip Island. By coming together these volunteers are making a vast difference to the lives of many children worldwide.
During the COVID-19 pandemic Mat had also re-purposed more than a dozen of his 3D printers to manufacture face shields. These are being provided for free in-line with the charity’s constitution, as additional PPE for those who still continue to work in areas such as aged care, hospitals, clinics and emergency services.
This Thank You Thursday, we give a huge shout out to Mat for his generosity and passion, and to the team at Free 3D Hands for their enthusiasm and motivation to really creating hands with heart.
See you in the pond,
The Fish Chick
According to the Closing the Gap report, in 2017, the national school attendance rate was 83.2 per cent for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students. This compares to an attendance rate for non-Indigenous students of 93.0 per cent, resulting in a gap of almost 10 percentage points. This attendance rate drops as low as 64.6% in very remote areas across Australia.
To combat this challenge, a charity in Western Australia is using netball to produce some stellar results in getting young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander girls to attend school.
Shooting Stars operates in regional and remote areas offering a netball skills program to young girls. The program has a clear focus on education and wellbeing sessions. Each term there are special excursions offered as a reward for all the hard work the students put into their education, behaviour and looking out for one another. Primary and Secondary students are rewarded an appropriate age trip in mind to somewhere in their region
The goals of the program are to:
- Lead innovation across all areas of the organisation, and throughout program delivery
- Promote growth and engagement in local communities
- Empower young women with a sense of self and connectedness to culture
- Maintain an ongoing connection to netball and sport
The program has eight teams across the state including; Carnarvon Breakers, Derby Storm, Halls Creek Starlets, Leonara Lightning, Mullewa Magic, Meekatharra Queens, Narrogin Wheatbelt Warriors and Laverton.
Shooting Stars works with the local community, schools and service providers to affect change to the lives of more than 350 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students thus far. 25% of the girls have improved their attendance term on term and 50% are maintaining an average 80% attendance rate.
Now that school attendance has been improving, Shooting Stars aim is to grow the number of young girls support to 1,000 by 2021, with consideration to develop and expand into other states.
This week, on August 4th, was National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children’s Day, a national day dedicated to celebrating our children. So, this Thank You Thursday, we give thanks to the team at Shooting Stars for all they’re doing to improve educational outcomes for girls across Western Australia.
See you in the pond,
The Fish Chick.
This month we acknowledge and celebrate the birthday of a very brave young lady. Malala Yousafzai. I’m sure you remember the publicity that surrounded her when she was shot for attending school.
In Pakistan, the birth of a baby girl isn’t always applauded, but Malala’s father being a teacher was determined to give his daughter every opportunity to learn as if she were a boy. However, in 2008 the Taliban took full control of the village where they lived and it was ruled that no girl was to attend school.
Malala spoke out on behalf of girls and their rights to be educated. On her way home from school in October 2012 a masked gunman boarded her bus and shot her three times on the left side of her head. The gallant driver put his foot to the pedal and the gunman escaped.
Malala was in a very bad way and woke up 10 days later in a hospital in England. Here, with specialist surgery and rehab, she began to recover. And when she did, she became a fearless advocate.
With the help of her father, Ziauddin, Malala established the Malala Fund in 2013 – a charity dedicated giving girls an opportunity to achieve what she chooses for herself.
Homelessness is close to Norm McGillivray’s heart. The challenges faced by his own father back in the early 1970s, Norm witnessed how it can really affect someone’s life.
Fast-forward some forty-something years, and one evening, when parking his car at the local shopping centre Norm realised just how empty the place was. That was when a simple idea came to him… to utilise the space by putting a couple of beds within the parking lot, and provide a couple of services such as access to doctors, dentists and even hairdressers. Not only would this give those experiencing homelessness a good night’s sleep, but essential services would be on hand too.
This is when the idea for Beddown began.
When hairdresser Selina Tomasich was holidaying in the Philippines back in 2010, she had a conversation with Sisters working with abandoned children on the streets of Manila whose parents were too poor to feed them. The Sisters took the children to a secure location to help in their physical, spiritual and medical needs, hoping to return them to their parents who were usually living in slums or on the streets themselves. What the parents really needed, said the Sisters, was a new skill that they could turn into a job. When Selina asked, what skill they taught the Sisters said, “Oh, we’re no good at that part, but our dream is to start a sewing centre.”