By Phileas Jusu

FREETOWN, Sierra Leone (UMNS) - Francis Koroma, an ex-soldier in the Sierra Leone Army, was injured after a bomb fragment hit his left foot in a battle to defend the diamond-rich district of Kono from rebel forces. His foot was amputated at the military hospital in Freetown after several unsuccessful operations. Koroma was hopeful to secure a job at a security agency that made acquiring an artificial limb a prerequisite for his employment.

Like Koroma, Donald Gabba needed an artificial foot to qualify for a job in security. He had walked about 12 kilometers from his home to a limb-fitting organization but gave up after several attempts because the demand exceeded the supply.

This time, he was encouraged to get one free. "That is my miracle, and I do not have words to express how grateful I am," Gabba said. "These young guys caught up with me on the street and invited me to come here and receive what I have spent the past six years running after. I opened up my arms right there and prayed for them for God's blessing."

A limb-fitting center in Bo, Sierra Leone, has provided more than 200 artificial limbs for amputees since the end of Sierra Leone's civil war. Most of the center's patients lost their limbs during the West African country's 11-year conflict. The center receives funding from the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries through its Health and Welfare Department.

During a spring workshop at the United Methodist-related Kissy Hospital in Freetown, 12 of 30 registered amputees received artificial legs. Amara Lappia, limb-fitting technician and head of the center, said the workshop was successful "because amputees who have been longing for artificial limbs, some for four years to no avail, now have new ones free of cost."

The limb-fitting center in Bo uses a process from Jaipur, India, and is the only place in Sierra Leone where that type of prosthetic is available. Patients can wear normal shoes and clothes. The government hospitals use a foam material that gets heavy and mildew-ridden in the heat and rain.

The center receives financial support from The Advance, the second-mile giving program of The United Methodist Church. Donations can be made through the Landmine-Prosthesis Program, Advance No. 982580. Make checks payable to a local church and drop in the offering plate or to "Advance GCFA" and mail to P.O. Box 9068, GPO, New York, NY 10087-9068. Write the name of the ministry and the Advance number on the check. Credit card gifts can be made by phone at 888-252-6174 or online at click on Advance.

Phileas Jusu serves as a United Methodist communicator in Sierra Leone.