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Young Samoan Man Wants to Help People with Orthotic and Prosthetic Needs

A fall from a tree in Samoa five years ago put Posenai Patu permanently in a wheel chair.   But he is turning his disability into a capability.

“I did not choose to go down this path.  The path chose me, so I went for it,” said Patu, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Patu is attending the Cambodia School of Prosthetics and Orthotics (CSPO). (Prosthetics are devices which replace limbs while orthotics are devices that strengthen, support or guide weak limbs.) “By the time I graduate, in my third year, I will have mastered 27 different devices and have those devices accepted by a patient,” says Patu. 

He is in his first year of a three-year program.  There are 37 students enrolled, of which 17 are in his class. Most are from Cambodia, but there are also some from Africa, Kiribati, North Korea, Pakistan, and Papua New Guinea. Patu represents Samoa well.  He was recently elected President of the school’s Student Association.

Patu is already seeing patients as part of his training. “I really enjoy working with the people.  I understand the situation they are in because I’m experiencing it, myself. I also love to make things with my hands.  So this is a fantastic occupation; it’s a natural for me”, said Patu.

He considers patients and fellow students his friends.  He says that Cambodia has many similarities with Samoa, including the food.  The classes are mostly in English but he is also learning Khmer, the major language of Cambodia.  “That’s difficult; plus it includes learning a new alphabet,” he says.

His school is 6,000 miles from his home in Samoa. What does he do when he feels lonely?  “I think about the future of Samoa and the welfare of the people,” he says. 

Samoa has a great need for someone with the expertise Patu is gaining. Many lose limbs in accidents or to complications from diabetes.

While attending APTC (Australia Pacific Technical College) in Samoa, Patu enrolled in a disabilities class. There he saw an advertisement looking for someone to study at the CSPO in Cambodia. He applied for the position and received it.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is paying for Patu’s training at CSPO and the Government of Samoa will develop an orthotics and prosthetics ward at the National Hospital. “When I complete my degree, I will work at hospital to make and fit devices, making sure they individually fit each person who needs them,” he said.

“The goal is to help people be independent, so that they can earn a living and get around in their homes and villages.” He concludes.

He comes from a family of six children. He and his younger brother are the only Latter-day Saints in their family, and are sandwiched between two older and two younger sisters. Their home is the village of Saleimoa in Samoa. His brother is preparing to serve as a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.


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