And one day, a miracle happened. My colleagues were playing football outside so I thought I wanted to be on their team. I couldn’t walk, I was crawling, but I decided to join them. So I asked my friend to get me a stick to find out if I’d be able to depend on the stick and then be on my feet. So he brought a stick, a walking stick, then I decided to try it. I tried it and I was on my feet. It’s like a miracle happened.
I was born in the Eastern region. My predicament started at the age of 7 years. Something occurred to me that became a blow to my family because we never knew something would ever happen to me. We didn’t know what really happened. It happened instantly. I was only 7 years. I went to sleep one day and I just got up on the wrong side of my bed the next day. I couldn’t walk again. I couldn’t stand up to do anything. And my parents didn’t know what to do with me. So I had to remain on the ground, on the floor, for years. And they attributed it to witchcraft or something spiritual. The family felt that some deity or whatever had visited me and has caused that condition. They thought it was something pertaining to the spiritual thing, nothing medical.
So when it happened my family and all the people in the community thought it was something spiritual. There was this fetish priest in that community so my family decided to send me there for they thought that there was hope in this fetish priest and they sent me to the fetish priest so he could help me walk again. At that time, my daddy was a rich man. He was a farmer and a palm wine tapper. So he had to invest all he had on me. This fetish priest had to lure my father to bring a few things, like a goat to be slaughtered, chicken to be slaughtered. He asked funny things that my father had to provide so that he can perform some rituals to enable me to walk again.
In spite of all the material that we provided to this fetish priest to perform these rituals, this was no avail. Nothing really happened. Nothing positive happened. In fact, it made my father become poor for he had to invest all he had on me. And later my uncle came in on the scene. He was a herbalist and he decided that he would also come in and help. He also administered these herbs on me day after day. For 2 years, my uncle was trying me with the herbs to see if I can be on my feet again. Normally, they just locked me inside the room and applied the herbs on me just to make me walk again.
And one day, a miracle happened. My colleagues were playing football outside so I thought I wanted to be on their team. I couldn’t walk, I was crawling, but I decided to join them. So I asked my friend to get me a stick to find out if I’d be able to depend on the stick and then be on my feet. So he brought a stick, a walking stick, then I decided to try it. I tried it and I was on my feet. It’s like a miracle happened. So I went and joined my colleagues to play football. But in the process, this fetish priest came and told my parents that if I continued to play this football the condition is going to come back because it’s something spiritual. Whoever called this witchcraft or whatever that made me become crippled would come visit me again so they shouldn’t allow me to play football. I was a goalkeeper by then. It came to a point that my parents prevented me from playing ball so I left football again. So my grandma decided to take me back to Accra to start life in Accra.
I suffered a lot of discrimination in the community where I grew up, in the village. Since my daddy was a palm wine tapper, people used to come and drink, buy the palm wine. I was very active helping him. So when people came, when his friends came to buy the palm wine, they found me very interesting. So among my daddy’s friends, there was no discrimination. But there was a time that, when I was 15 years, I saw that whenever there was any sort of conflict, my dad used to blame my mommy that this condition comes from her family. It’s the cause of her family and that’s why this predicament came upon me. So there was this kind of discrimination within my parents. And also within the community. Whenever there is any misunderstanding, they used to raise some funny insults, they used to pass funny comments based on my condition. And lots of discrimination. There were some instances where my dad had a confrontation with my uncle and my uncle raised some kind of funny comments based on my condition, that I’m a cripple, nothing good can come out of me, I cannot make it in life, I am of no use, I am not even a human that should really even sit and have any conversation with. There were just some kind of funny comments and painful comments that were used against me within the community and within the village. And because of that I had to leave the village. That is why my grandma had to bring me to Accra, to the city, because there was too much discrimination in the village. So that is the main reason why my grandma had to bring me to Accra. And when I got to Accra, there were so many discrimination among my friends and the neighbors in the community. People used to say certain things and I didn’t like it. But I just had to cope with the situation.
So what happened was that when my grandma brought me to Accra, the whole community was a bush, like a forest. So with my condition I couldn’t do anything so I was just in the house. My grandma was helping me day by day with my day by day activities. When my grandma brought me here there was no school around so I couldn’t continue after grade 6. I just had to stay home. But it has affected me so much. I wanted to go to school because I loved being in school. I wanted to go to school to a level that I could really work or find something to do- a job or something. But the condition crippled me from going to school. It crippled me from also achieving something better in life. That is why I decided to try my hands on something, learn some trade. So I started to learn the trade of the cobbler. I didn’t have any training on that. I just asked my grandma to provide me with a few tools. Then I just started working as a cobbler. I just started to try my hands on it. And today, if I’m a shoemaker and a cobbler, it wasn’t out of training but it was something that I tried my hands on and that is it.
My only source of entertainment is the church. I have found myself in the church, so whenever I go there, all the things that go on in the church, I feel ok with it. That is my only source of entertainment. And the friend that I am perching with currently, he is doing tremendously well. Sometimes he invites me to a festival in the village. So for that reason, when I go there I find some little happiness. So apart from that, I have no source of happiness.
The most difficult moment in my life is that I have not been able to rent my own house. I have been perching with friends since. The most difficult moment is the day I lost my grandma and as a result I had to be perching with friends. I never had money in my life to even rent a single room so all these years I had to be perching with friends. In fact, I have no source of happiness except for the festive occasions, but currently I am not happy in life due to the fact that, since I am perching with a friend, in the night I have to stay outside for hours and wait for my friend. My friend will just go out, you see, and do his own thing outside so I have to stay outside in the mosquitoes. If it’s raining, if it’s cold, I have to be outside and wait for my friend to come open his door before I can get a place to lay my head. I have no option. If he goes out, I must stay outside until he returns. If he doesn’t return, I have to sleep outside. Because the key is only one and it’s with my friend. Even as I am working as a cobbler, I sleep with friends. So for that reason I have not been able to find a wife at my age to give me a child. And because I don’t live on his own, no woman is interested to be with me. So those are my difficult moments. And for that reason it has given me a psychological trauma. Because when I see my friends who are at my age who got married and have kids, while I is still perching with friends, I feel that I am not really making a headway in life. I wish that I could rent my own room and have my own independent life rather than perching with friends.
What is the biggest barrier for persons with disabilities in Ghana?
The biggest barrier that is crippling persons with disabilities to improve their life is, I think, the government. The government is not doing its best and I think that there’s more room for improvement because of this Disability Common Fund. I think that it’s not reaching everybody. Few people are benefiting. All my life the Common Fund hasn’t been received, just even once. And how would I even know that something like this was going on in the country, if it hadn’t been for the Disability Needs Foundation, who approached me and told me about the existence of this Disability Common Fund. I wouldn’t have known that there is something called the Disability Common Fund that is ongoing in this country. So I feel that the government is not doing its best. No announcement, nothing. And I don’t even know those who are responsible. Not even persons with disabilities, who are bedridden, who are confined to their rooms and who have no opportunity to go to school, who can’t even read and write, can even know that this Common Fund really exists. Nothing like that.
Do you have ideas about how we can improve the current situation?
There is one man who is a philanthropist. He handles the Peace FM radio. He used to invite widows and give them some capital to start trading and sometimes some persons with disabilities who are available in his community. And he said that even the government could do something like this and gradually it will reach out and go far and improve the life of the needy, But there’s no announcement of anything like that. So for me, I think that there’s more room for improvement on the part of the government. And even if the government cannot do that, then at least every month, just 20 Ghana can make a headway for every person with a disability in this country. Even just 20 Ghana every month, and it will reach all in this country, I think it will reach a headway then too. For the government to sit idle and people who just benefit and others who suffer.
If you meet another person with a disability, what would you tell him or her?
My lifestyle motivates even the able ones. I am very active, very punctual at work. When I was working a certain man used to even dash me some tips of money as a gift when I am working, simply because my lifestyle motivated him, he being an able person, he doesn’t even come to work very early. By the time he got to work I am already there. So in fact it is something that my lifestyle motivated him and was really pushing him forward in life. So I feel that even if my lifestyle could even motivate someone who is an able-bodied person, how much more it would motivate my colleagues who are in my condition.
If I meet such a person, I would advise him that it is very very bad to beg for alms. Everybody in his life has an ability. He should build on his ability and start something on his own. I would advise them that they shouldn’t rely on begging for alms and rather rely on their ability and start doing something. Everyone should rely on his strengths; based on that you can achieve something profitable.
I feel sad and feel ashamed when I see my colleagues begging for alms. I don’t think that persons with disabilities have the right to beg for alms. And I think that we as Africans who are very superstitious, some people give alms based on something like rituals, they do rituals with the money and bring it to you. I feel like this is what happens because you go to somebody, somebody may be having a problem, and they give you that direction to visit somebody with a disability and they give you this kind of amount of money. By so doing, your problem will go away. So sometimes people give such ritual monies to persons with disabilities. So I would advise them that it’s not proper to be by the roadside and beg or alms. Because if you are not lucky, somebody may give you bad money that carries bad omens. So that is the advice I would give to my colleagues who are persons with disabilities.
What is your best ability?
My strength and ability are what I am doing currently. As I compare myself to other disabled colleagues, I feel that I am far better. Because as somebody with the condition I am able to wake up early in the morning, at dawn, and go to work. Find something, make some money, and come back home. So that is my strength and his ability because since I am not by the roadside begging for alms, it gives me the strength and ability.