HOMEPAGE: www.danieljvance.com

 

 

DISABILITIES

By Daniel J. Vance

 

  In March 2004 I visited Ghana along with Wheels for the World, a faith-based organization that fits and freely gives away wheelchairs, crutches, and walkers to people with disabilities in third world countries. Recently I finished a book called "Wheels for the World Goes to Ghana" and now want to share that West African nation with you.

  The size of Oregon, Ghana is an English-speaking nation on the Atlantic coast bordered by an alphabet soup of nations: Togo, Cote D'Ivoire, and Burkina Faso.

  While there I listened to the touching stories of dozens of Ghanaians with disabilities. One "client" was Esther, 48, who had contracted polio in childhood and some twenty years ago lost her ability to walk using crutches. Of the 150 Africans we helped, perhaps more than 60 were there because of polio.

  She said then, "In our African world, it's still the mentality that (if you're a person with a disability) you're an outcast and nothing good can come of you. It's difficult to be paralyzed or deformed. It affects you totally."

  So I asked her, "You mean people think you are second-rate?"

  She sighed, "Even second-rate would be good."

  To get around, Ghanaian paraplegics without wheelchairs either crawl on hands and knees or piggyback with friends or relatives. In general, the culture considers them cursed and sub-human. Many restaurant owners shoo them away. Others are shoved into dark bedrooms never seeing the light of day. Children without wheelchairs can't get to school. And purchasing wheelchairs is nearly impossible because the average Ghanaian makes $500 annually.

  Nonetheless, their grit and faith inspired me.

  One man named Sylvester showed remarkable perseverance. Because of polio and using crutches to walk, he was repeatedly denied a government loan to open a clothing shop. "To get that loan I went before the municipal assembly 29 times and made 45 telephone calls," he said then.

  While there I met only three employed people with a disability. Employers simply wouldn't hire "cursed" people with disabilities.

  Besides wheelchairs, walkers and crutches, Wheels for the World volunteers freely distributed Bibles in a number of tribal languages and English and shared all the Christian love they had.

  "Wheel for the World Goes to Ghana" would make a warm Christmas gift for a person of faith, one who especially enjoys inspiring stories of courage and perseverance. You can purchase copies only through my personal website at www.danieljvance.com