When San Juan Hills High School senior Ashlynn Mathews visited her grandparents while they were on a humanitarian mission to Fiji, she was struck by the number of children in need and knew she wanted to try to help. Her grandparents, a nurse and a podiatrist, were working with diabetes patients in Fiji, many of whom need leg prosthetics. When Ashylnn visited, she noticed an additional need for arm prosthetics for children who were born without arms or with partial arms, from families who lacked the financial means to get these needed prosthetics.
Upon her arrival home, she joined a volunteer network called Enable the Future (a network touted on their website as “A Global Network of Passionate Volunteers Using 3D Printing to Give the World a Helping Hand”). This network links volunteers with 3D printing capabilities with people in need of prosthetics from around the world. Ashylnn became a certified volunteer with the network and was able to open a chapter of Enable the Future at SJHHS. She is enrolled in the BITA class at SJHHS, taught by Collin MacDonald, where she learned some of the techniques needed to print the parts to build prosthetics. For anything that she hasn’t learned in the BITA class, she is self-taught, using videos found on the network’s website, as well as YouTube to teach herself printing, friction welding, and thermoforming techniques.
Last year, Ashlynn was given her first case by the Enable the Future network – a two-year-old girl named Giovanna from Brazil. After special ordering materials in pink and purple (Giovanna’s favorite colors), Ashlynn was able to print and assemble a prosthetic limb for Giovanna. When her family received the arm, they sent Ashlynn a video of Giovanna
wearing her new arm and getting to shake her parents’ hands for the first time, as the family claps and cheers in encouragement and excitement.
After putting together a grant proposal on Donors Choose, Ashlynn was able to get funding for 30 prosthetics, each costing roughly $13-16 each. It is her hope to train other SJHHS students on how to print and assemble these devices so that the grant can be fully used here even after she graduates. For Ashlynn, who hopes to be able to continue her work in college next year, creating these devices for people in need is a true labor of love. Her face lights up when she talks about Giovanna and other potential future cases of people she can help. SJHHS is so proud of what she has accomplished and can’t wait to see what she goes on to do in the future!