This story began in January 2015 in Jinja, Uganda, and was started by Elder Kim and Sister Nancy Squire, who served as senior missionaries in the Jinja are. It was later turned over to us when the Squires completed their service in July. After a few failed attempts at getting prosthetic hands from charitable organizations, we started our efforts afresh on August 14, 2015 in Gulu, northern Uganda.
Meet Cosmas Opedmoth, age 23. His life changed in an instant the night of January 12, 2015 while working with a grinding machine. His hand was caught by the blades, and before he could pull it free using his other hand, it too was sucked in. The horrific result was the loss of both hands, leaving only thumb-like stubs. It’s a miracle he didn’t lose his life.
After posting his story here on our website, we were contacted by friends and other concerned people in Utah, asking how they could help. What ensued was heart-warming and miraculous to us.
With the help of these friends, here is how the campaign came to be:
- Medical practitioners were found in Utah who specialize in prosthetic hands. Three different types of hands will be created for Cosmas. A Sunday pair (lifelike hands for social meetings and light duty), a work pair (pinching hooks which are durable for every-day use), and a plastic pair (mechanical hands which look like robot hands) for light duty work.
- An organization called Hands for Cosmas was formed to raise funds for Cosmas and his older brother Reagan to come to Utah for his hands. Reagan will accompany Cosmas to aid his travel and personal assistance due to his limited abilities.
- The campaign included a logo, website, hats, and printed fliers which were distributed to several thousand residents of Utah and beyond. Thanks to Lance Black and Eli Kirk Riser for their kind help in creating the campaign and image.
- Dr. Steve Aldana, a health and wellness consultant with Wellsteps, directed the entire effort spending hundreds of hours and personal resources to manage the way forward. Many meetings were held at homes in Mapleton, Utah, to plan and execute the campaign.
- Others came forward to offer assistance (generally free) for the men to be fitted with clothing, glasses, receive dental care, and meet with key leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints based in Salt Lake City.
- Newspapers and television helped with publicity, running feature articles including;
- Daily Herald: Mapleton LDS missionary couple hoping to help Ugandan man without hands
- Deseret News: Mapleton community raising funds to buy Ugandan man new hands
- KSL: Mapleton community raising funds to buy Ugandan man new hands
- Fox News: Community in Utah raising funds for prosthetic hands for Ugandan man. Then a follow-up story here.
- KUTV 2: a-utah-community-connects-ugandan-man-with-second-chance-at-life
- 242 Donors came forward to help. Donations ranged from a few dollars to thousands. The total raised was over $29,000.
After many letters, bank statements, and phone calls, the two finally received their passports and visa to travel to Utah.
Today is 8 March. We delivered the two happy travelers to the bus which will take them to Kampala.
I wish I could capture our final homecoming interview with Reagan and Cosmas. Their gratitude for all that was done to help them both is tremendous. Tears were shed as they discussed the dozens of new friends they made, and the services they received.
Reagan described the future of the Church in Gulu in a way that was prophetic to me. I wept as he explained his visit with Elder David R Bednar and how the Church will become established and grow here because of Ugandans, not because of missionaries or others from outside. Whites provide the support at the beginning, but the real growth and success will come when Ugandans take responsibility and move the work forward. I feel certain that both Cosmas and Reagan will become key players in the establishment of the Church here in Gulu, and expanding outward to other parts of Uganda.
One more sincere thanks to all who saw a need, donated services, time or money, and provided an epic life experience for two humble and happy men from northern Uganda. God bless you all.