Persons of Disabilities of Cameroon: Veronica

July 16th, 2016 by | Tags: , , , | No Comments »

During the last seven months of my Peace Corps service, I am featuring photographs and stories of several persons with disabilities living in Cameroon. All the photos are part of a series called “Persons with Disabilities of Cameroon.” The goal of presenting photographs and their stories is to create better awareness about the plights that persons with disabilities face in a developing country. When I return to the US, I hope to exhibit this series in a gallery and publish a book to educate others about persons with disabilities living in developing countries as this topic is so rarely discussed in the media.

Jun212016_Peace Corps_Cameroon_Mbakaou_5692

Veronica, a 40 year old woman with a bubbly personality is a highly intelligent and motivated woman who has strong desires to make the world a better place for persons with disabilities because of the adversities she faced growing up with a disability  .  Even though her clubfoot, with which she was born on her right foot, has been corrected later in her life as an adult, and she can walk with minimal challenges, she still advocates for the rights of all persons with disabilities by being a program officer for the Coordinating Unit of Association of Persons with Disabilities.

No one recognized her clubfoot when she was born.  It was not noticed until when she was a couple years old. “My mother noticed I had problem when I was learning to walk at the age of about 2 and a half.  When I was learning to walk she realized my right leg was slow to move. I was moving with difficulties,” said Veronica.

“As a mother she kept observing me and complained to my father that she observed my right leg. It looks weaker than my left and I don’t stand on normal position on ground.  As my father told her, that she should let me be and I’m just a baby learning to walk. And I will get used to walking I will walk better,” she said.

“Your parents didn’t noticed your foot was deformed when you were born?” I asked Veronica.

“No,” she said, “When I was growing up, my mother kept observing that the problem was not getting better. In my village, when twin children are born from one family and then another baby is born from another family, that baby is supposed to be named as a younger sister or younger brother. I was supposed to be named as a younger sister but I wasn’t named as a younger sister.  So [my mother] held onto the myth that my leg was caused by a birth of twin children,” said Veronica.

“[My mother] didn’t do anything until when I was 11 years old. When I was at 11 years old and I was leaving primary school, my aunts advised her to take me to Njinikom Hospital but my aunt has advised her because she has taken her daughter there. She had a deformity in the knees. So that was in November 1987. In that year, I had my first surgery which was tendons release. So after that surgery, I spent about six week in the hospital with cast on my leg. I was then referred to St. Joseph Children and Adult Home (SAJOCAH) for physical therapy and to wear a brace. I wore the brace for about one year but because I was a child, no one followed me up. So when my brace became worn out, the deformity of my ankle became worse and so there was nothing else to do by then. My mother didn’t have any more money. My father had long died,” said Veronica.

“As my father long died, he did not have the chance to see me grow up and live my life. So when I left primary school, my friends went to secondary school, I went for surgery. But at the end, I did not achieve anything from the surgery because my leg became deformed again and I dropped out of school. My mother didn’t have any money to do anything for me. I left my mother and I was living with the relatives. And nobody could do anything to help me. I just stayed home. Nobody had interest to help me or push me forward to go ahead in life. So as I was staying with relatives, I realized I was growing up in my teens. And I was about 17, I wasn’t going to school. I was not doing anything to improve my life. I was left at home and did all the chores,” said Veronica.

“One day, I just took my luggage and left to meet my mother in village. While in village, I was there for three weeks. My elder brother who was a hair dresser met a woman who came to do her hair in the salon and she was pregnant. She needed a babysitter. I was brought in to be a babysitter for the baby to be born. So I lived with the family for 16 years.  I went to secondary and university while living with the family. I took care of them doing my best as far as my strength could go,” she said.

“After the university while working in a shop, a reverend sister came to buy something and when I [assisted] her, she saw my limp and said what a beautiful girl I am and why is my leg like this. She encouraged me that I could make my leg look better. From there I recognized her because she was at SAJOCAH when I went there the first time. At the end of the day when I returned home after work I called my brother who live Douala and I told him that I met someone who has encouraged me that my leg could be improved upon. They’re very excited and told me to book for a surgery for my leg,” she said.

“I went to SAJOCAH and made arrangement for my surgery. In July 2008, I had my second surgery. After the surgery, I had my cast for two months. I went to physiotherapy and rehabilitation at SAJOCAH. During my surgery, they had a fixation in my ankle, something in my ankle that they could only see in X-ray.  There was a nail in the ankle that was fixed in my joint. It was taken off nine months after the surgery. After my surgery, I could wear better shoes with different designs. One of the best things that interest me the most was that I could be able to wear flip flops which I have never worn in my life,” said Veronica.

“That’s what I can say about my experience with my leg. But I wear a support depending on my activities up to present. It’s a wonderful experience and I would like to appreciate what my family has done for me especially to my brother who could pay all the hospital fees. My brother paid all the bills with support from the family I was babysitting,” said Veronica.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *