By Atty Philip N. Wesseh (PNW)-
Few years ago, I had the opportunity of serving as guest speaker at the closing program of the Samuel Slewion Doe Memorial Institute (SSDMI) in the Borough of New Kru Town. What impressed me at that occasion was the student who topped the class. As I waited anxiously to see the valedictorian, I saw a physically-challenged Varney K. Sirleaf with his clutches approaching the podium, at which time he delivered his message.
As I sat in my seat and listened to the message of this young future leader, I realized that he was a determined person who, if given the opportunity, would aspire to higher heights.
More importantly, as I concentrated on his condition, I reflected on the many persons with similar conditions, who feel that they cannot be useful to the society. As such, they perambulate from streets to streets, from business centers to business centers and sometimes at worship places seeking for alms for survival.
Being so impressed with his message and observing his determination, I recruited him in the computer section of THE INQUIRER, as a typesetter or typist since he had some knowledge in typing. With a determined mind, today, Varney’s condition was the result of an accident, as a child when he fell from a step, thus breaking his leg and rose from being a typist or typesetter to “Webmaster,” of the newspaper. Proudly to say today, the man who I recruited few years ago now masters the computer than me.
Basically, my interest to recruit Varney, a member of the Gola ethnic group, was to send a message out that to be physically-challenged does not mean that one is useless because of such a state of condition, but that no matter the condition, one can still be useful in society, provided one pursues the educational path to avoid relying on begging as a source of survival.
Despite ascending to being the webmaster of the newspaper, Varney was not complacent by this preferment, but decided to pursue high education, for which he enrolled at the AMEZ University, where he graduated in 2014, with a Bsc. degree in Accounting.
During his academic sojourn at the university, in view of his condition, it was not an easy journey, especially in boarding a vehicle to commute on the main campus near the Po-River and the Monrovia campus on Benson Street. It became more difficult for him when motorbikes were banned from plying the streets of Monrovia. But with determination he underwent vicissitudes of the condition he found himself in, thereby disabusing the minds of people who feel that being in such condition, one cannot acquire knowledge to contribute to the society.
Just last Saturday; this young man added another milestone to his profile when he took the hands of glamorous Miss Hawa Ferkai at an elaborate ceremony at the Water in the Desert Church in Brewerville. Perhaps this should have been written during the time of graduation, but as it is said, “better late than never,” as I was really inspired during Saturday’s wedding when this young man turned a page in his life.
I decided to make his latest strive as an important issue because of the way and manner in which people in such condition condescendingly look at themselves, for which they feel that the only way to survive is by living on alms. If Varney in such a condition can make it, I feel that others can emulate his example to be of service to society, rather than being burdens to the society. And for one to do this is by acquiring higher education or some vocations.
Every time I walk in the streets, my blood simmers in me whenever I see individuals, even with minor disabilities, begging for alms. Particularly, there are some with their two hands and one foot, with clutches asking for alms. There is a fellow on the Tubman Boulevard in a wheelchair every morning asking for help. Such a person can even be a typist and later a computer operator with his two hands.
While I know that most of our buildings are not handicap-friendly because of the steps, there is still an opportunity for these physically-challenged or others with disabilities to become serviceable to the society. If Varney and others with such condition can make it, others can also do likewise. They should not give up in life, but to make use of available opportunities.
Today, as I highlight the success story of this young and determined man from high school, to college and now a legally married man, this too, others, in such condition can do, as it is often said, to be a handicap, or to be someone with disabilities does not mean uselessness or that “disability is not inability.” Even the blind can emulate the example of Beyan Kota and others in such condition who are contributing to the society and not in the streets begging as a way of life.
Until people in such condition can realize that all is not lost and that begging is not the way out, but education or some vocations.
I Rest My Case.