Some people with disabilities are working hard in a way which is dispelling the myth that disability is inability.
Two people with disabilities have gone on to inspire their communities through self-reliant initiatives in Mashonaland East province.
Seventy-year-old Naison Sandiforo Banda from Tsvanhu village in Domboshava went blind in 1994. To many, Banda like many blind people was supposed to rely on well-wishers for sustenance. But he has surprised many by his optimistic attitude towards life. The father of six is a symbol of inspiration to many in his community.
Despite his condition, Banda owns a five-roomed house which he has electrified. To improve hygiene at his homestead, he designed a flushing toilet and a shower system, which uses water from a well.
For a man of his condition, it is amazing he is able to prune fruit trees dotted around his homestead. To the eastern side of the house is a vegetable garden. A thick layer of thatch grass that fences the area prevents the ever-hungry goats and chickens from destroying the fragile plants.
He says installing the water system at his homestead was a big challenge.
“I started off by putting up a well. It took me six months to work for a submersible pump and two and a half months to get the pipes ready. I did it on my own. I did the entire job, digging of the trench, joining of the pipes and to connect water pipes. I put the water where I wanted it to be. I have a toilet which has a flushing system, I have water in the garden, I have water outside here and I have water inside the house.”
Banda says he can do almost everything that someone who is sighted can do.
“I do all the washing on my own. Do the ironing, put some water on the fire, go to the bath and dress myself. Whether my wife is sick or not, I take care of all the washing, even those for the kids. Other men say they don’t wash their wives clothes but I do. If I fry the meat all the kids will know that I have done a good job. Housework, garden work, mechanical work, all that I can do without fear because I have got the skill.”
He says what drives him is the need to demonstrate that people with disabilities have something special to give to society. Banda adds that the greatest gift of all is inspiring others.
“If you are disabled you can also give, you can also receive. Don’t always be a receiver. Even in the Bible they say giving hands are blessed than those that receive. When I did this project people didn’t know what I was doing until they saw me getting water from a tap. I have got my neighbour who is in the army. He bought a submersible pump and a water tank. He came to me and asked how it’s done and I showed him. Now he has got water in the house and in the toilet. This makes me happy because people are adopting what I have done.”
Banda says people should also be patient with those with disabilities, and assist them realise their potential.
“It’s not easy, but you need to teach them. You must not always sit down and say I am blind, I am disabled and say God come and help me. There is nothing that you cannot change. The only thing that you cannot change is the sun; it rises on one side and sets on the other.”
Forty seven-year old Praxedes Chadambura from Pasina village in Chigondo area in Wedza has attracted attention of fellow women in her community who come to her for advise on how to work on their various projects. Chadambura uses crutches and a wheel-chair due to disability challenges. Despite her condition, she can plant maize seeds in the field kneeling down.
Chadambura’s husband, Godfrey Pasina, was diagnosed with hydrocephalus at birth. The two do not have children. For the past two years, they have saved their money which they used to buy bricks, cement, door frames and window frames to build a four-roomed house and a brick and thatch hut.
Chadambura says women with disabilities should be bold in implementing projects in their communities.
Twenty-six-year old Farai Munodawafa is a journalism student at Harare Polytechnic. Farai, who did his secondary education in the United States says people with disabilities should have the courage to overcome their condition. He gave an example of his friend Leeroy Sutton at college who went into sport without pitying himself.
“When he went to college he met a friend who was blind and they joined a wrestling team. The blind friend would carry the friend who had no legs and they kind of combined senses. The one would navigate using his voice and the other would walk, instead of him using a wheel- chair, the blind man was now the wheel-chair. It was an incredible thing to witness. You would see how a friendship and a bond can produce greatness. Their story was published in newspapers and on television.”
Munodawafa says people with disabilities should realise that they will only receive respect and recognition if they go the extra mile in demonstrating what they can do.
“Your initial thought when you see someone with a disability, you would feel pity. You would want to extend a helping hand. Before long you would end up forgetting that this person has a disability. You would realise that this person with a disability is pushing so hard to achieve things that able-bodied people are trying to achieve as well.”
Meanwhile, an entrepreneur in Chitungwiza, Sostain Moyo, is working with people with disabilities and encouraging them to realise that they can achieve a lot in life. He says those with disabilities can be role models if government, the private sector and individuals can assist them with resources.
“The focus of my training is to help them to look at themselves in a different way. Whatever talent they have, whether it is using their hands or whatever they have to create something, they should be aware that this can serve communities in which they live. Whatever they can do using their talent can bring money to them.”
Computer Instructor at the University of Zimbabwe Disability Resource Centre, Isheunoziva Chinyoka is blind. He says people with disabilities have an obligation to show society that disability does not mean inability.
“These stories are inspiring; they show that people with disabilities are not a liability to society but assets. The man from Domboshava and the lady from Hwedza, are both contributing to the development of society.”
Chinyoka says those with disabilities should aim for independent living in order to get the respect of the community.
“In both cases we are seeing examples of independent living skills – someone who can get into the field and grow crops and someone who can take care of his homestead. A person with a disability needs to attain independent living skills before he or she can fully participate in economic activities.”
Chinyoka says independent living does not mean that people with disabilities should live in isolation. He says such people should have control of their every-day lives just like their able-bodied counterparts.