HandReach: Healing Kids from Trauma Injuries

HandReach: Healing Kids from Trauma Injuries

Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
Project Stage:
$50,000 - $100,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

HandReach fosters the full rehabilitation of children injured by trauma by integrating surgery, orthopedics, rehabilitation, nursing, and psychosocial care.

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

The world's poorest children are at highest risk of the world's most devastating injuries -- burns and amputations. Healing from these injuries and getting back to a full life requires integrated care -- surgery, rehabilitation, orthopedics, nursing, and psychosocial care that work together under one roof, from admission to discharge and beyond. Most developing world hospitals have these units separated by fiscal and administrative constraints that make it impossible for injured kids to receive care beyond initial surgery. Typical poor families scrape together all they have, and can barely afford surgery -- there is nothing left for rehabilitation or prosthetics, much less psychosocial care. These kids most often return home to a life of isolation, dependence, and disability.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

HandReach is working to develop model pediatric burn units in that integrate injured kids' care in one place and connect these units via telemedicine for long-term training and consultation on best practices. We are working now to develop a Prosthetics Unit Project (PUP) in Beijing that will train units throughout China, Asia, and other countries on how to work with children with devastating limb deficiencies caused by burns or traumatic amputations. This unit will work closely with surgery and nursing, with the rehabilitation program we have already developed, and with a growing psychosocial program, to restore kids' mobility and function, and to help them stay equipped and motivated to get back to school and a full, healthy life. Trauma injuries cost the our world more productive hours than cancer and heart disease combined, so we are focusing on healthy but injured children with potential for a lifetime of healthy contributions ahead of them.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

Children sustaining serious burns or amputations will be admitted to our partner hospital, the China General Air Force Hospital, where an integrated team of clinicians, connected with an integrated team in Boston via telemedicine, will consult on best practices and outcomes for each case. This unit will treat hundreds of patients each year and train dozens of clinicians from throughout China, Asia, and elsewhere, thus impacting patient populations exponentially as clinical practice becomes more innovative and effective.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

We are not aware of any other organizations that are working in this way to develop long-term, lasting change within other countries' national infrastructures. There are surgical organizations like Operation Smile, ReSurge, the Grossman Burn Foundation, etc. typically sponsor overseas missions for clinicians, but are unable to commit to the long-term rehabilitation process, which has made it difficult for them to work with burn survivors who may need years of complex care and rehabilitation.

Founding Story

HandReach founder Brecken Chinn Swartz brought burn survivor Zhou Lin to Boston Shriners for reconstructive surgery and rehabilitation in 2006. One day in the playroom, in the midst of layers of complex but utterly compassionate treatment and therapy, Zhou Lin asked, "Why don't we have this kind of hospital in China?" Brecken was stunned and stumbled over words: "It's kind of complicated; economics are very different in different places." "Well, we should build hospitals like this for all kids to have," Zhou Lin said. "You're right," said Brecken. "I have no idea to do that, but I'm sure some people do. Let's find them." So here we are. We believe hospitals that treat children's trauma injuries should be free (like Shriners used to be), and worldwide (so that the kids who need them the most can get to them). HandReach has been providing free help since 2007, free treatment clinics since 2010, and we hope someday to achieve the dream of free hospitals offering world-class care.
About You
About You
First Name


Last Name

Chinn Swartz

About Your Organization
Organization Name


Organization Country

, MA, Suffolk County

Country where this project is creating social impact

, XX

How long has your organization been operating?

More than 5 years

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How long have you been in operation?

Operating for 1‐5 years

Which of the following best describes the barrier(s) your innovation addresses? Choose up to two


Social Impact
Please describe the goal of your initiative; outline what you are trying to achieve

HandReach has already partnered with a hospital in Beijing to help underserved child amputees and burn survivors in China gain full mobility. Our proposed Prosthetics Unit Project (PUP) will allow skilled American & Chinese clinicians to work on site with local surgical, orthopedic, and rehabilitation personnel to provide custom prosthetics fitting and rehab plans for poor children suffering from traumatic amputations and complex burn injuries. The unit will be connected by telemedicine to our team in the US for joint consultation to serve as a hub for training and practice in HandReach's five-pronged model integrating advanced surgery, orthopedics, nursing, rehab, and psychosocial care. Over time, we will collect best practices into a free multimedia database available worldwide.

What has been the impact of your solution to date?

In one training clinic, our team trains about 20 clinicians, each of whom treats around 50 kids per year, so around 1,000 children can be impacted annually. We have brought about 10 of our most complex cases to Shriners Hospitals in the US since 2006, and they are all doing great, but children shouldn't have to go to another country for care. One such case is MingHe, whose legs were burned off almost entirely when he was kidnapped by a neighbor, buried head-down in a hole, and his legs set on fire. Clinicians in China said he would never walk again -- his stumps were just too short and scarred -- but after a few weeks at Shriners, MingHe is walking to school again. His father, a mechanic, is now passionate about prosthetics and wants to help other kids. Right now, we have to bring MingHe to the US for prosthetics fittings, but our Prosthetics Unit Project in China can not only treat MingHe close to home, but employ his father and help hundreds of kids gain full, lasting mobility.

What is your projected impact over the next five years?

With the presence of our Prosthetics Unit Project in Beijing, we can train hundreds more clinicians in China through regular clinics supported by ongoing telemedicine conferencing, ramping our potential impact up to tens of thousands of children per year. We seek to have five partner hospitals in China (NE, NW, SE, SW, and Central) connected with hundreds of smaller units countrywide. Once this scalable model is established, we can begin work in other countries, leveraging expertise and resources from China to build programs in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Our 5-year goal is to have our five partner units in China up and running, with a pilot in at least one other country. This system will be supported by an online multimedia database to distribute video pods of best practices.

What barriers might hinder the success of your project? How do you plan to overcome them?

In China and elsewhere in the developing world, there is serious social stigma around physical differences. Many of our patients are denied basic rights to schooling and employment because of visible scarring or differences in mobility. This is one reason we hope to gain greater impact and be able to treat many more patients annually -- having success treating thousands of burn survivors each year creates critical mass to develop the kind of support network for burn survivors necessary to facilitate social change and open doors. We are networked with the Phoenix Society and other burn foundations here in the US, as well as the Sunshine Foundation in Taiwan, and we seek a signficant role bringing these networks together to provide lasting treatment and support for survivors worldwide.

Winning entries present a strong plan for how they will achieve and track growth. Identify your six-month milestone for growing your impact

The PUP is in place, with two professional orthopedists, two technicians, and two interns

Identify three major tasks you will have to complete to reach your six-month milestone
Task 1

Purchase and install the equipment (we already have the space and equipment list ready).

Task 2

Gather enough funding to hire our 6-person team. (If we can invest $10,000 in upstart, our Chinese partners will do the rest.)

Task 3

Identify and hire the perfect staff. (We already have lodging and meals in place.)

Now think bigger! Identify your 12-month impact milestone

Telemedicine capability is in place, and at least 20 children have been brought to full mobility with prosthetics and rehab.

Identify three major tasks you will have to complete to reach your 12-month milestone
Task 1

Purchase and install the telemedicine equipment in both Beijing and Boston.

Task 2

Generate the staffing list in Boston to host regular weekly clinics.

Task 3

Work with our local hospital in Beijing to set up patient scheduling and rehab time.

Tell us about your partnerships

HandReach has links with the Phoenix Society, the world’s largest association of burn survivors, as well as with Shriners Hospitals, Massachusetts General Hospital, the Jaycees Burn Center, the US Army Surgical Research Institute, the University of Maryland, Tufts University, Curry College, Northeastern University, and with our partner institutions in China, including 512Children.org, Overseas Saving the Chinese Children Foundation (OSCCF), A Life A Time Foundation, the China Federation of the Disabled, the Chinese Red Cross, Angel Moms, and Aixin Foundation.

Are you currently targeting other specific populations, locations, or markets for your innovation? If so, where and why?

HandReach has been invited to hold burn clinics in India, Indonesia, Ghana, Kenya, Sierra Leone, Ecuador, and El Salvador, but we have held back from opening new programs until we have a deep well of expertise and resource management practices running fluidly in China. We desire to base major hubs in large countries with strong infrastructural capability, so India may be our next site (to leverage its technological resources as we expand telemedicine presence), followed by the strongest hospital centers we can find in West Africa and Latin America.

What type of operating environment and internal organizational factors make your innovation successful?

Because HandReach's model is based around integrating the five crucial elements of care, our internal communication must be open, transparent, collegial, and based around a deep respect for each other's disciplines and utmost dedication to full healing of the children we serve. As such, our team spends regular time together developing relationships through clinical exchange, therapeutic drumming, and social gatherings. We are all responsible for fundraising and outreach within our respective communities, and we prioritize doing all we can to equalize resources between the professions so that we can model a truly equal, inclusive model of interdisciplinary cross-pollination among units overseas that are historically fragmented and weighed down by hierarchies of age, gender, and politics.

Please elaborate on any needs or offers you have mentioned above and/or suggest categories of support that aren't specified within the list

HandReach innovates -- firstly in terms of best practices in pediatric trauma care, but also in networking, communication, and expressive therapies. However, we are very small and could benefit greatly from consulting and mentoring in technological possibilities, legal issues, and marketing outreach. We seek to collaborate with fostering wellness for children injured by trauma.