Persons with Disabilities of Cameroon: Kate and Tordal

April 20th, 2016 by | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment »

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.

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Kate sitting next to her little shop stall

Kate, a woman with disability who is in her 40’s is often found everyday sitting by her little shop stall.  When I asked her what kind of disability she has, she stated “I have weak legs.”  As I continued to interview her, I learned that she was born with knock knees which were corrected when she was five years old.  Even though she had the surgery, she continued to struggle to walk, and actually didn’t even have a walking stick to assist her for most of her life.   She said, “I would walk and fall and walk and fall.”  She finally received a walking stick a few years ago from an association from the US who donated it to her.  She told me that when she received the walking stick, “It has made walking easier for me.”

She is also nearsighted. She never wore glasses as she and her parents never had money for glasses.

She went to primary school and part of secondary school. She could not complete secondary school because her nearsightedness and lack of glasses made learning difficult.  Throughout her schooling years, she faced bullying due to her disability.  “My classmates would mock me,” she said, “They would call me ‘blind girl’ and say ‘you cannot walk straight.'”

“They would stigmatize me,” she added.  When her classmates teased her, Kate said that she responded by saying “God made me like this.”

“I was not able to make any friends.”

When I asked her, ” Did you face any challenges in walking to school?” She responded, “Ooooh yes!  I moved slower.” She took a longer time to go to school. She had to miss many days of school because of her struggle to walk. The school was far from the home. She missed more school days during rainy season because the road was too slippery, and she would fall more easily. She faced many injuries just from falling down. She showed me many scars that she has on her legs.

When she dropped out of secondary school, she went to training in embroidery. But she was not able to make it her job because she was not successful in getting people interested in buying her embroideries.  For several years, she had no job. She relied on her family and a nearby hospital for support.

One year ago, an NGO provided her small loans to start a small business in selling food, candies and cigarettes. Her business is going well. “I got clothes for myself. I was able to feed my children. The business makes me happy and feel I’m not isolated,” Kate said. Before Kate started her business, there were many days when her children were starving.

Kate had two children out of wedlock. Her children have different fathers. She has a daughter, Zilah, who is 17 years and her father abandoned Kate when she became pregnant.  Then he died in a moto bike accident when the daughter was six years old. He provided no child support. Her son, Tordol, is 21 years. His father accepted Kate’s pregnancy.  However, Kate said, “He left me because my son was disabled. When he discovered my child was disabled, he just left.”  She has never heard from her son’s father since he left her.  Both children have never met their fathers.

Kate said both fathers were accepting of Kate as a woman with disability, and she was in a relationship with each of them for two years each.  “When my father died in 1985, I had no one to provide for me,”  Kate said.  She said that she looked for a man to support her and that is why she chose to have a relationship even though both men abandoned her.

Her son, Tordol has hearing loss, visual impairment and problems with his legs. When I walked in their home, I saw Tordol sitting next to the TV, and he had his ears up against the speakers so that he could hear.  He walks with crutches. He also can’t speak well, which is likely due to his hearing loss. He never went to school. “I don’t have money to send him to school, and I don’t have money to buy him hearing aids. And so I decided to keep him at home,” said Kate.

When I asked Kate what did her son do growing up since he didn’t go to school, she said, “He did nothing.” Her son doesn’t help with any household work. Kate does all the cleaning and cooking.  Tordol also often sits outside with Kate by her little shop stall, which is located next to their home.

Her daughter is in secondary school and hopes to be a banker. Kate pays for her school fees. Her business helps pay her daughter’s school fees.

When I asked her why it’s important for her daughter to go to school, she said, “Because I am handicap and if she goes to school, she can get work and help me.”

Then she added, “If there is money for my son to go to school, I would be very happy.”

“If somebody can help me send my son to school and my daughter to university, I’ll be very happy and God will be very happy.”

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Tordol listening to the television

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1 Comment

Veronica Ngum Ndi

April 21, 2016 at 8:39 am

Great work I Love this post

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