"Acts of kindness never die. They linger in the memory, giving life to other acts in return."
OW Technical High School Automotive Shop (1997 – 2002)
The first modern prostheses were fabricated in Belize in June 1997. While it took 14 days to make three legs and one arm, the number of devices provided being far less important than the fact that they were able to make them at all. After one mission, it wasn’t even a question as to if they would return the following summer, and the one after that. And the one after that. Rob and Robbie recognized that in order to support the provision of prosthetic services, a U.S. 501(c)(3) non-profit charity would be necessary. Together they chartered Sonrie Ministries, Inc. in Texas as in 2000 as a humanitarian non-governmental organization (NGO). Recognizing that a formal entity was essential to do business in Belize, they also chartered a Belizean charity named Prosthetic Hope Belize.
From 1997 to 2001, Rob and Robbie led annual summer missions, increasing team sizes, and adding technicians when possible. Mission trips were 12 days: one day for set up; ten for evaluations, fabrication, deliveries, and training; and one day for packing up the clinic. A growing supply of materials began to be stored in the automotive shop between missions. It was becoming abundantly clear that if we were going to continue providing prosthetics in Belize, we would need a permanent prosthetic clinic facility.
Five weeks prior to the Belize 2002 summer mission, Rob Kistenberg was in a car accident that left him unable to travel. The summer window of opportunity to utilize the Technical High School’s automotive shop closed and people who had been waiting for a year realized that they might have to wait another one. One industrious patient, not wanting to wait until next summer, offered to loan the team his vacant three-bedroom cinderblock house as a clinic site. In November 2002, the location of the Prosthetics Clinic was moved to “the Casitas” on the outskirts of Orange Walk Town. With the availability of an alternative location came the awareness that mission trips could be conducted more frequently than once a year. In 2003, for the first time, Rob & Robbie hosted three prosthetic missions. It was their most productive year ever.
PHI-Belize is Home
In 2003 we were awarded a $20,000 grant allowing PHI-Belize to purchase a house on the main street of Orange Walk Town. In 2004, we purchased the property and building through which the only prosthetic and orthotic clinic in the country of Belize still operates.
It was in 2010, when Sonrie Ministries relocated to Atlanta, Georgia, our name was officially changed to Prosthetic Hope International, Inc., and the Belizean charitable organization which operated the flagship clinic since 2004 became PHI-Belize.