Monday, December 30, 2013
Tuesday, December 10, 2013
The movie Emmanuel’s Gift centers around the story of Emmanuel Yeboah, a disabled man from the Gold Coast of Ghana. Emmanuel was born with a short and twisted leg in a poor village that had no electricity or running water. When Emmanuel’s father saw that his son was disabled he abandoned the family, leaving Emmanuel’s mother to raise the children and provide all alone. In Ghana, if you are disabled you are a second class citizen, that is the norm. The belief is that if you are disabled it is because you are cursed or destined to be that way. Ghana is centered around traditional beliefs and the idea is that a disability occurs due to some sort of punishment or curse.
Although Emmanuel’s father left the family once he realized that he had a disabled son, his mother did not give up on him. Instead of keeping him in the house and treating him as a hopeless cause, she enrolled him in school, where he was the only disabled person and faced discrimination from his peers. Emmanuel proved from the beginning that he was tough and a fighter, as is shown by his choice to work hard and not beg, to find a way to play soccer with his peers, and to go on to do great things for himself, his community, and the disabled population.
What stood out for me were the themes about hope, inspiration, community and education. Hope is something that I think is the most important factor in recovery and perseverance. In my own work with my patients this is something I focus on a lot, because without hope it is very difficult to recover and find life sustainable. I heard somewhere, and I believe it to be a fact that hope is the number one factor in recovery for people. Jim (I believe), the first man helped by the CRH gave Emmanuel hope to pursue his application to receive a mountain bike and Rudy gave Emmanuel hope that going forward with the operation to allow him to get a prosthesis would be a positive thing.
In our life it is hard to think that we can make a difference. One voice seems so small and useless, but the players in Emmanuel’s gift prove that to be completely untrue. Each individual displayed a strength and ability to challenge the status quo in order to not only help themselves, but to help the greater community that they are a part of. Another interesting theme was sports and how being an athlete allows individuals to gain a sense of self and inspiration. This brought up thoughts of my friend Nick Springer who is on the USA Paralympic Wheelchair Rugby team and has become an inspiration to disabled individuals everywhere. He lost all four of his limbs from meningitis at age 16 and he, like Emmanuel did not lie down in self-pity, fear and sorrow but instead rose up to do great things and inspire a lot of people. Nick in an Olympic Gold Medalist and public speaker all over the world.
Emmanuel Gift is a film that really everyone should see. It is inspiring and moving but it is also important to know about. Ghana has not changed just because Emmanuel has made a difference. The stigma against disabled persons still exists and the services are still not there. Of course it starts small and change is slow, but the more education is out there, the better a situation becomes. Emmanuel has made great strides and helped a lot of disabled people in Ghana from the ground up. Ultimately, having a disabled child in Ghana is a huge burden and the financial and emotional support is not there. Hopefully as time goes on the situation will continue to improve and knowledge is power. The more we know the more change can occur. Hope is key but also challenging the norm, like Emmanuel did over and over is how it starts.