Goto main content

Life-changing crutches

Democratic Republic of Congo

Raphaël’s specially adapted crutches have made it easier for him move around and be more self-reliant – including walking to school by himself.

Raphaël walking to Selembao inclusive school in DRC.

Raphaël walking to Selembao inclusive school in DRC. | © T. Freteur / HI

Raphaël, 12, lives in Selembao, a district of Kinshasa, in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Raphaël was born with osteogenesis imperfecta, or brittle bone disease. Children with this genetic disease have soft bones that break more easily. A few years ago, one of his friends fell from his bike and gently bumped one of Raphaël’s legs, fracturing his bone.

A few months later, Raphaël fell while walking and broke his other leg. His family could not afford to pay for an operation, and he did not receive proper treatment.

HI began to manage Raphaël's care in 2018, after his mother attended an awareness-raising session in an inclusive school in Selembao. Raphaël used to walk around using “just a stick” entirely unsuited to his needs. Using specially adapted crutches provided by HI, he can move around much more easily now and walks to school by himself.

An extraordinary turn of events

Raphaël sets off to school from his home. © T. Freteur / HIRaphaël was born in Congo-Central province, in DRC. Until the age of four, he was able to walk without a problem. One day, one of his friends was riding his bike when he fell and hit one of Raphaël’s legs, breaking it on the spot.

Raphaël was immediately taken to the nearest hospital. “We took Raphaël to hospital, but we don’t have much money so we couldn’t pay for his operation,” explains his mother Félie. “The doctors applied salves to his leg to ease the pain.”

Selembao is one of the poorest districts of Kinshasa. Raphaël and his family moved there from Congo-Central province in 2017. Soon after arriving, he broke his other leg when he fell while walking. Now both his legs have been injured and neither were treated properly.

Before HI supplied him with crutches, Raphaël walked with a wooden stick completely unsuited to his injuries. When he was given a technical mobility aid adapted to his needs, he was delighted.

“My crutches are great. It took a lot more effort to move around with a stick. Now I can walk to school by myself. Sometimes I take short breaks on the way, but it doesn’t take me long to get there.”

What is his favourite subject at school? Civic Education! Twelve-year-old Raphaël already takes a close interest in social issues and how we live together in society. He understands the importance of respecting others. He also says he likes to use his phone to take photos - in fact, he wants to be a journalist when he grows up! His dream is to study journalism in Belgium.

Raphaël writes on the board during a maths lesson in Selembao inclusive school. © T. Freteur / HIHI began to support Raphaël in 2018, after Félie attended an awareness-raising session organised by HI in an inclusive school in Selembao. She is extremely grateful to the organisation and was over the moon when she learned that Raphaël could enrol in school and join other children his age.

HI works in the region to make schools more inclusive, supplies technical mobility aids to the most vulnerable individuals and helps provide rehabilitation care in health and hospital centres. People who benefit from assistance are given follow-up care specially adapted to their situation. Passion, an HI physiotherapist, for example, visits Raphaël once a month: one of her responsibilities is to check the wear of his crutches and to provide him with a new pair if he needs them.

Date published: 24/05/23


Where we work

Read more

“I want people to be aware of the risk of putting civilians in the middle of war”
© HI
Emergency Inclusion Rehabilitation

“I want people to be aware of the risk of putting civilians in the middle of war”

Marwa is living in Germany. She fled the conflict in Syria where she was injured and is now using a wheelchair. She tells how she has coped with her disability.

“School has become a scary place”
© HI
Emergency Inclusion

“School has become a scary place”

Salam is the director of the Boys Elementary School in Jenin refugee camp in the West Bank. She tells us about the dangers of teaching in a context of armed violence.

Crisis in North Kivu: mobile clinics providing essential care
© HI
Emergency Health

Crisis in North Kivu: mobile clinics providing essential care

Humanity & Inclusion (HI) is deploying mobile clinics in North Kivu to improve access to healthcare and provide medical and psychosocial assistance to people displaced by the conflicts.