I am Mathew, I live in northern Ghana.
Photographer: Erin Johnson, Ghana
When I was young, I was attacked by measles. I became disabled and couldn’t walk again. Later I also acquired another sickness which they called epilepsy. I always fall when it attacks me.
I used to think that life is useless. I experienced severe headaches, anytime I have a headache, I had to go to the house and lie down. It was very painful. As a human, why should I always be in the house? Only eating and sleeping and having nothing to do? I wasn’t happy.
It also used to attack me in the school, in the midst of the people and they would carry me home. The following day when I go back to school the students didn’t like to come close to me.
After I was attacked by the epilepsy, my parents heard there is an organisation called Sandema CBR and through them my sickness can be treated. So my parents took me there. I started taking my medication from CBR and later on I became better again.
After I regained my brain, I realised that I could also do something for a living. I learnt how to ride a bicycle and I started to go wherever I wanted to go and do something for a living.
When I got to know Sandema CBR, they always came around to give help and advice, encouraging me to work. They always tell us that I have a disability but that does not mean I cannot work. They also taught me new skills – shoe mending. They gave me tools, and now I am working as a cobbler. As well as my cobbler work, I have used groundnut seed to start my animal and crop farm.
I could feed my family with the yields I would get from my farm. But it didn’t take me throughout the year. Around the dry season I couldn’t grow food any longer to support my family.
Now I have received help from Sandema CBR, I am even going to feed other people in addition.
I have received a donkey and we’ve dug a well. And now I’m rearing pigs because I now have water. It helps me because I will be able to feed my family members all of the time. I will also be able to get some vegetables to send to the market and get some income for living.
At first, when you are a disabled person you don’t think of getting married. But Sandema CBR came in and talked to us about relationships, about marriage. Today, I have my wife she is a dressmaker and she is working and getting an income for a living and I am also working, and we are living happily together.
We shouldn’t say that, “because of our disability, we can’t work.” Some of us might not be able to walk, but we can work. And when you work and receive the money, you earned it. Nobody just gave it to you.
As a result of who I am today, the people in this community now respect me. They used to exclude me in decision-making and other works – today they include me.
Through the skills that I have acquired and the training I’ve had I am self-reliant.
Whatever able- people are doing today, I am also able to do. Able people can farm, and I can also farm. Able people can rear animals; today I can also rear animals. Able people can get married, today I am married. So I want to encourage all people with a disability that they should never give up. I am very happy for my life today.