Scott Reichenbach, who grew up in Langhorne, heads up an international non-profit in central Pennsylvania that cures clubfoot in lower-income developing nations.
His organization, Hope Walks, helps children with the disability and literally changes the course of their lives.
Clubfoot is a deformity present at birth that twists the baby’s foot downward and inward, making walking almost impossible.
It is easily detectable in wealthier countries like the United States and is easily correctable at birth and eradicated during a child’s first five years of life. Famous Americans born with clubfoot include Hall of Fame quarterback Troy Aikman, soccer Hall of Famer Mia Hamm.
Clubfoot occurs in 1 in 800 births.
There are between five and six thousand babies born with clubfoot in the U.S. each year.
Unfortunately, in developing countries that are designated as “low income” and “low-middle income” by the World Bank and UN lack the medical technology for this easy cure and babies born with it are left disabled and impoverished for life.
Scott, who is a pediatric ICU nurse by trade, first observed it first-hand while doing medical missionary work in poorer nations in central Africa and Southern Asia.
He sadly saw adults with clubfoot sitting on street corners begging so that they could exist day to day.
There are 19,000 babies born with clubfoot in the countries that Scott and Hope Walks services.
Clubfoot is easily treated through corrective casting, bracing and, in 85% of the cases, through an easy outpatient lengthening of the Achilles tendon known as a tenotomy.
Medical providers cast babies born with clubfoot weekly which manipulates the feet until they are straight.
After six or seven castings an effected baby’s feet are normally straight.
Next, the child has to wear a brace at nap time and bedtime during the “maintenance phase” through age five because of his or her rapid growth, which can cause a relapse in the condition.
At age five, the bracing can stop since the risk of relapse is miniscule.
Hope Walks raises money and trains frontline medical providers in low-income nations to combat this and literally give children hope for a normal, productive life.
Founded in 2006, it operates in 16 countries, 13 in Africa and three in Latin America.
Hope Walks partners with 136 medical centers in those regions to literally give children the hope of walking and leading a productive life that breaks the cycle of poverty.
Originally the organization trained doctors, nurses and physical therapists in how to treat the disability and they went to countries in these regions to combat the disability.
However, Hope Walks has been so successful that they no longer need Western physicians to provide training.
During their 15 years of operation they have established enough medical professionals in the regions they serve that indigenous healthcare providers now train medical newcomers in their own countries.
According to Scott, “Hope Walks currently has eight US and 25 international program staff. The vast majority of our team is program staff to help manage and operate effective and efficient national clubfoot programs. They facilitate and manage the national programs, coordinate with Ministries of Health and medical centers, ensure adequate supply chain, raise awareness, support families, provide monitoring and evaluation of outcomes and the financial support to ensure that all children have access to care”
Scott became involved in his mission after graduating from Lower Bucks Christian Academy. “I became a pediatric ICU nurse and worked at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Rochester, NY, and did a lot of travel nursing.”
Scott always had a yearning for going on medical missions and finally went to Honduras in the aftermath of Hurricane Mitch in early 1999.
He went into the mountains there to help with an apparent cholera outbreak along with a team of doctors, nurses and engineers.
“That led me to get involved in international health. I became involved in doing international travel and nursing work. I traveled to Mozambique and the Sudan. They were my longest stints. Mongolia and Kosovo were also frequent places where I helped to give health aid to the needy.”
“I then got involved with Samaritan’s Purse in Boone, North Carolina. They are Christian International Relief and Development Organization. Their main mission is to provide healthcare, clean water, and sanitation programs in poorer regions of the world.”
“When I went to Kenya, Ethiopia, and Bangladesh on my missions with Samaritan’s Purse, I first witnessed adults with clubfoot sitting by the roadside begging. It was a very saddening sight.”
“Subsequently, I saw a job opening for an international program director at Cure International based in a suburb of Harrisburg, Lemoyne, PA. I was qualified for the position after working closely with international ministries of health. I knew enough to help coordinate and get the kids the care they needed.”
“Cure International started the original CURE Clubfoot Program. That’s why I returned to Pennsylvania from North Carolina and took the position. Cure moved to Michigan and they spun off the clubfoot program.”
“So I founded Hope Walks in 2018 and kept their medical missionary work alive in Pennsylvania. It continues to grow and successfully help thousands of children each year walk free from the disability of clubfoot. ”
For more information visit www.hopewalks.org.
PHOTO CAP: Scott Reichenbach at work in Ethiopia with a local family.