A STOCKTON man who lost his leg in a car accident when he was young has channelled his empathy into helping amputees in Africa.

Adrian Martin, 50, first visited Gambia five years ago and was struck by the plight of impoverished people who had lost limbs either through conflict or illness.

Most of them could not afford to buy prosthetic limbs and received little or no support from the medical services following amputation.

On a visit to Gambia last January, Mr Martin decided that he needed to do something to help and he forged links with the Legs for Africa charity.

The charity recycles prosthetic legs that would otherwise end up in landfill and facilitates amputee support groups.

Mr Martin took a direct approach and began fundraising and collecting sports gear to help The Amputee Football Team in Banjul.

So far, he has directly funded prosthetic limbs for six players and helped a 13-year-old Dakar boy receive replacement legs after both of his were amputated below the knee.

Mr Martin, who has a prosthetic left leg, said that his direct experience of amputation led to him feeling the need to help others.

He said: “I know what it will be like without a leg so that is why I have chosen to go down this route, because I know exactly what it would be like.

“It would murder me.”

Mr Martin recalled that when he told the father of the 13-year-old amputee that he would be willing to help fund his prosthetic limbs, he was initially met with scepticism.

“I said I would help him and he said ‘see you next year then’.

“I went back four weeks later.”

Mr Martin said there was ‘no feeling like it’ when his donation literally helped get the young boy back on his feet.

He said: “He had a deformity in his feet so obviously he couldn’t walk because of it.

“So a surgeon had gone over and took his legs off but would not help with any other part of how he was going to live without them.

“So I just thought, ‘I can help here’.

“Then when I got the final picture of him back at home standing on his legs, it gave me a feeling like nothing else and I thought, I have got to go back and help others.”

Mr Martin, who lives in Elton, works in the transport department for BT in Northallerton and says his employees and friends have regularly donated funds towards his mission to help African amputees.

He is flying back to Gambia in the early hours of Wednesday this week and is taking across box-loads of sports gear and clothes donated by Cleveland Fire Brigade.

He is also taking across enough funds to help six players receive prosthetic limbs from the Banjul Hospital.

“They will be over the moon,” he said. “They know I am going over to bring football gear, but they don’t know I’m helping to get six prosthetic limbs.

“They will not believe it.”

Mr Martin is spending the next two weeks in Gambia and plans to continue his charity work into the future and help as many amputees as he can.