Face of Flanders: Hannelore Vens


A 27-year-old Fleming recently climbed the steps of Machu Picchu with prosthetic legs, winning the hearts of local TV audiences, and one generous anonymous donor in the process

A remarkable climb

Early last week, Hannelore Vens could be seen in the new VTM series Over winnaars (About Winners) carrying out the admirable feat of climbing the steps of Machu Picchu, the Inca citadel in Peru. By the end of the week, a crowdfunding campaign had raised €90,000 to buy her new state-of-the-art leg prostheses.

Three years ago, Vens (pictured with TV presenter Koen Wauters) was involved in a freak accident in which she fainted on a train platform, falling onto the tracks. A train ran over her legs, and now the 27-year-old uses prosthetics, which don’t stop her from cycling to work in Aalter from her home in Bruges.

She was Over winnaars' first guest. The new series hosted by Koen Wauters follows five people who have had to overcome adversity making a dream come true. For the trip to Machu Picchu, Vens was provided with a set of prototypes of a new type of prosthesis, controlled by micro-processors and rechargeable.

The trouble is, a pair of the state-of-the-art legs costs €90,000.

Such was the effect of her remarkable climb, however, that radio station Qmusic, newspaper Het Laatste Nieuws and magazine Dag Allemaal launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise the money. It only took a single donor, however, to reach the goal: A business person in Ghent, who wishes to remain anonymous, donated the whole amount.

“Hannelore made such a strong impression on me because she’s so positive about her situation,” the donor told De Standaard. “I wanted to help because she keeps on fighting despite the terrible problems she’s had to suffer.”

In the end, the crowdfunding campaign raised €146,000, and the surplus will be donated to the Antwerp chapter of Project U/turn, an international organisation that arranges adventure holidays for people with a handicap. Project U/turn accompanied Vens on her trip to Peru.

“We’ve been riding a roller-coaster of emotions since Monday,” Vens said, on news of the crowdfunding success. “The reactions from all over have been unbelievable.”

Meanwhile, federal health minister Maggie De Block has announced changes to the 2018 budget that will see medical insurance agency Riziv reimbursing the cost of electronic knee replacements. It’s a start.
Photo courtesy VTM