When I first saw Chinyelo, he was covered in dirt and mud, walking on his hands through his village in Haiti. His T-shirt was ripped. He was hungry. He was not well-cared for. He had never been to school. We don’t know exactly why his legs have never worked, but our best guess is that he had some sort of traumatic injury at birth.
I am sharing Chinyelo’s remarkable story now because Sunday is International Day of Persons with Disabilities, created by the United Nations in 1992. It is a day to think about people who don’t get the attention they deserve.
In the culture in Thomazeau, Haiti, Chinyelo is seen as cursed. Because of this he is viewed as worthless. People treat him and others with disabilities poorly, because they believe he doesn’t matter.
One of my other disabled friends in Haiti has been raped repeatedly because it is believed to bring good luck to rape a disabled person before buying a lottery ticket or making a business venture.
When the faith-based organization where I work – LiveBeyond – began humanitarian work in Haiti, we saw the abysmal circumstances of so many disabled people and we couldn’t stand by and do nothing. Especially not with our legacy.