Thank You Thursday: Hands with Heart

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

Thank You Thursday: A Fearless Advocate

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.

Thank You Thursday: A pop-up solution for homelessness

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.

Thank You Thursday: More than just a haircut

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.

Thank You Thursday: Connecting through Education

School life is challenging enough for some students, and with today’s changing family circumstances, cultural differences, socio-economic disadvantages and social media, many more students are struggling. Literacy and numeracy are must-have basic skills to help us get through everyday life.

Beginning in Western Australia in 1996, The School Volunteer Program started up and operated for over 20 years. It expanded across the states to Victoria and New South Wales under different names. However, in 2015 it had a rebrand and is now known as EdConnect.