At just sixteen years old, Florencia, a single mother living in Mozambique, Africa lost her right leg to a landmine while collecting firewood. She became unable to live a life capable of doing everyday activities with ease, and was bound to a life on crutches. However, when John Mullen and Douglas Bowman heard her story, her life was turned back around.
A few years ago, five students from the Multimedia Arts and Design Academy at Santa Barbara High School traveled to Mozambique and took Florencia to Jaipur to get her a prosthetic leg from Jaipur Foot. She returned to her village with two legs, and a future full of opportunities. The students got to know Florencia and learned her incredible story, which changed all of their lives.
Florencia has learned to adjust to her new life with two legs. She’s forever grateful that she can grow and flourish as a young adult with two functioning legs in which allow her to be reunited with her old life prior to the accident. Now, she wants to give back and provide others the same opportunity she was given two years ago. She is doing so by helping with Jaipur Foot in India, the same organization that gifted her with her leg. Florencia is hands on in helping create prosthetics for those in India who live just like Florencia did. She also hopes to take her knowledge of craftsmanship and the creating of these prosthetics back with her to Mozambique.
Greetings from the 2017-2018 Help One Walk International team. Throughout last year, we hosted many successful events including a Veterans Day awareness event and a benefit concert to raise more funds for the people of Mozambique. In the new year, we have many exciting projects lined up: the launch of our new book, “Florencia: An Accidental Story” (now free to download on Amazon), breaking a world record in our #hop4how project, and maintaining connections with Jaipur Foot to continue to provide affordable prosthetics to those in need.
This year, our team is comprised of Multimedia Arts and Design Academy students from Santa Barbara High School all working together to promote HOW International. The interns are divided into three groups, all focused on the projects outlined above. We have many new interns this year as well, and we are all working under the leadership of our executive interns: Gibson Field-Elliot, Wilson Sherman, and Emma Perme. We are extremely excited for this new year and the new opportunities it will yield. Thank you all for your support as we continue in our efforts to address the plight of amputees in Mozambique. We will have updates for you on all of our upcoming projects in the near future!
November 11 is a day of remembrance and gratitude for those who fought for our country. This past Veterans Day, HOW created a public gallery to honor both our own country’s heroes and to those victims of war halfway around the world who don’t have a voice. Partnering with local charities, our team hosted a walk-through gallery of photos in Paseo Nuevo Plaza. The event included art, live music, and guest speakers.
We contacted local artist Scott Dosch to sculpt one of his famous sand statues in a display at the Plaza. He created for us, a beautiful rendering of a kneeling American soldier. Throughout the weekend we had many students perform live music, many of them our own interns. The Saturday event hosted several guest speakers, including a local Vietman veteran. As the entertainment and displays gathered onlookers, our interns hurried back and forth, handing out flyers, selling merchandise, and answering questions.
Many watchers were genuinely interested and praised the work HOW is doing. More than once, old friends of HOW and the team would wander up to reunite and some even gave up a few hours of their own time to join the interns. All the while, our cinematography team documented the music, speakers, and activity.
Veterans Day Event Short Film
By the time the sun set on Sunday, HOW had raised almost $5,000 in donations. All the proceeds from this event will go directly to the purchase of prosthetic legs from Jaipur Foot.
Seven months ago, HOW International premiered Florencia: the Forgotten One at the New Victoria theater. Since then the size of our student team has grown to nineteen members. We have put on another event and our biggest event yet is fast approaching. We continue to tirelessly gather funds for the other 10,000 amputees with our Give a Leg campaign. We are developing several additional campaigns including “Latte for a Leg” and #hop4how. As we enter the new year, HOW is preparing for its largest endeavor yet; breaking the world record for most people hopping on one foot. In doing this we hope to gain support from a broader audience and a bigger presence in the media.
Our team of interns is comprised of MAD students, led by HOW veterans Wilson and Gibson. The nineteen interns are divided into five teams: graphic design, social media, movie-making, writing, and event planning. They work tirelessly to organize promotional events and keep HOW’s presence in the media strong. John and Douglas continue write their novel Florencia: an Accidental Story, documenting Florencia’s story and their journey to find her. The new year represents opportunity. For HOW, it is an opportunity to do our part in helping those who have lost everything. We will continue to expand our reach and we will not cease our work until we see the other 10,000 walk.
On Sunday Night, May 22nd, the ‘Florencia, the Forgotten One’ event was attended by over 250 family, friends and supporters of HOW International,MAD Academy and Jaipur Foot. DR Mehta, Chief Patron of Jaipur Foot was the honored guest for the evening and was presented the first Albert Schweitzer Lifetime Achievement Award. Daniel Morris serenated the audience with a selection of beautiful songs on the violin. Special guests Rajeev and Nita Daga flew in from Houston with her sister and husband for the event. The Cal Poly crew were on hand as well for the evening. The crescendo of the night came when Dane Holroyd and Samsun Keithley premiered their film, ‘Florencia’ to an enthusiastic reception.
Katya Cengel interviewing DR Mehta, Founder of Jaipur Foot
Lifetime Achievement Award Presented to DR Mehta
Daniel Morris playing ‘10,000 Reasons’ on the Violin
Gibson Field-Elliot interviewing Dan Williams, Director of MAD Academy
This event was hosted by HOW International and the students of the Santa Barbara High School MAD Academy. It was sold out and there was a line about 50 people long before it even started! Wilson and Gibson were the master of ceremonies. They introduced the speakers and the bands that played for the event.
John Mullen shared the vision of HOW International to help the forgotten victims of landmines both in Mozambique and the United States. It was a powerful evening that inspired all who came!
This creative poster was designed by Ally Drevo of the MAD Academy.
John gives an update on HOW International’s vision to put 500 legs on amputees.
Our very own Gibson Field-Elliot throwing some riffs out with his band.
Brandee Rose brought an amazing vocal presence to the evening.
Gibson and Wilson as the perfect Master of Ceremonies making raffle awards.
After countless hours of travel and thousands of miles, Florencia has been returned safely to her village. We had the incredible opportunity of returning Florencia during the village’s Sunday church service where we met and interacted with the local community. We joined them in song and thanksgiving as we talked about the contributions from both sides, and the trust that Florencia’s family placed in the HOW team that made this all possible.
See images of Florencia’s homecoming below.
Douglas shared a message with the community and his quote beautifully summed up our journey thus far:
“It takes a village to raise a child and the whole world to give a woman a leg.”
Florencia’s story has touched the deepest places of our hearts. We have experienced a myriad of emotions on this trip. With an amputee, it’s never certain that the leg will fit and will be worn or put aside. Florencia had some adjustments when she was first fitted. Her back was hurting because she had been leaning forward with her crutches for over two years. The doctor had her change her posture and immediately the pain left. And then it happened. Her face brightened. She stood up straight and began to walk with a true determination. As she entered her village and took her first steps you could see a boldness and confidence. Her smile said it all. Her world had changed and so had ours…