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Tabitha’s Story as she told it to her friend Sister Mary O’Shea in Cameroon.
A Story of extraordinary resilience, courage and care for others.
Posted November 2017
My names are Tabitha Bongyuy Mformi, a native of Ndu in the North West Region, Cameroon. I was born by Rev. Mformi Isaiah Komi and of Ma Alice Yuuh Mformi of the Presbyterian Church, Ntundip on March 1972 and was able to walk up to five years. Soon after I had a light fever which ended up to general body paralysis. For the next year I could not even sit up. I was only lying down and could only be turned round by the help of others. I was being fed by others, bathed by others, carried along on the back by family members. Many thanks to God almighty for the wonderful parents, brothers and sisters that He gave to me. All of them so loving and caring. They worked restlessly and tirelessly on me. All they needed from God was my well-being.
I was taken from one hospital to another. All types of men of God visited me to perform their miracles on me, to no avail. My uncles in the family went from one fortune teller to another. Yet God was still saying something. My parents were asked to take me to a very big river, leave me there and go away. Also they were asked to take me to a graveyard, saying I was a witch. All my family refused to do so and decided to look unto God. Two years later I started improving and was then taken to Mbingo Baptist Hospital. By this time my legs were wrapped around my buttocks so I could only sit on them, then creep with my hands and knees. There at Mbingo I met a physiotherapist who had my legs corrected and I was given calipers and crutches.
Immediately I came back from the hospital, my mother started carrying me to school. While she was doing this, people were asking her what good I shall ever be to her. Many advised her to relax and leave me in the house but she kept on until in 1986 I completed class seven and passed my First School Leaving Certificate with Merit Grade.
I was now so big that my mother could not continue to carry me to school. Roads to school were tough and not accessible for a tricycle or for calliper users. When my father was transferred to Nwa, I was able to attend a Technical School there where I did a two year course and graduated and got an attestation from the Centre. Again in 1995 I attended another training in the Rehabilitation Centre in Mbingo Baptist Hospital for six months in knitting, marketing, crocheting and embroidery where I got another certificate. Meanwhile I got pregnant and gave birth to a baby boy named Hansell Nsallar Mformi.
In 1996 I came back home to my village in Ndundip. While in the village I could not cope with life because of the inaccessible roads and the condition of my tricycle. I suffered social exclusion from church and social gatherings because of this. Even the hand work I learned seemed to be of no value. As I saw life was not moving well for me, I decided to come up to Ndu where I rented a one-roomed house and started producing and selling Traditional caps. This time I was supported by the Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Cameroon, the Right Rev. Nyamsanko-Niko with the sum of 75.000 frs CFA. This money really helped me as I was finding it difficult to get water which I had to pay someone to carry for me, to buy firewood, vegetables and all my household needs. Despite all this I was very serious with my handwork and never did I forget that there was GOD. I spent my time in my handwork and in the church. All this seriousness caused me to participate in Mini Agro Pastoral Shows and also in art/craft exhibition which sold the image of my work and took me as far as Yaounde, the capital of Cameroon. During all these struggles I was loved by everyone. Though I faced so many challenges, great were my achievements.
In 2007 I together with two of my friends, Comfort and Timothy, saw the need to form a Handicap Union in Ndu Town. This was done and I was elected the Minutes secretary for 8 years. Today I am the president of the Handicap Union, named Solidarity Association of Persons with Special Abilities, Ndu. And the group membership has risen from 15 to 48 registered members. Also through this group we have created six other very large groups in neighbouring villages and the Agape Unity Program which operates under the Presbyterian Sisters of Emmanuel, Bafu.
I am the president of the Solidarity Association of persons living with disabilities in Donga/Mantung and still yet I am the divisional co-ordinator and Donga/Mantung Field worker for the Agape Unity program of the Emmanuel Sisters. Don’t forget that all I am doing is volunteering. Despite all this I earn my living by producing and selling traditional caps and dresses.
I also had wonderful support from the missionary sisters of the Roman Catholic Church in Ndu in the years 2004 -2008 from Sisters Josephine and Mary O’Shea and I get more advice from Sister Mary, but now she is on her way home. Sisters, I miss you.
I have also been greatly blessed by God since 2013 with the Rev Sister Judith Ngim of Emmanuel Sisters, Bafut, working with her to outreach to about 400 physically challenged and bed-ridden persons with disabilities and epilepsy. We provide drugs for 250 epileptic patients at a discount; we have provided 53 wheel-chairs and also assist with door-widening, levelling, accessible toilets, crutches, white canes for the visually impaired and many other services.
As a person with disabilities I have come to know that what such a person does can either Build or Spoil. For example, taking the challenge to be a good example to other such persons in word and in action to encourage other handicaps and give glory to God. There are times when I meet people who have hands but no feet, – but they can use their hands, eyes ears and other parts of their bodies to improve the quality of their lives. Thus glorifying God by learning any form of hand-work and earning their living through it. Yet I find many of them going about begging and they are very dirty.
I came to discover that many of our brothers and sisters have not been Educated. I also discover that family members leave them like, that not because they hate them but out of ignorance. Also they believe that handicapped persons are witches and wizards, also causing abandonment and stigmatisation. For this reason I saw the need to join forces with other handicapped people to see that a group is created where we can also build our Self Esteem. That is what provoked me to Volunteer. I also have been organizing meetings with family members and carers to educate them on how to care for these our brethren. They are also advised to stop hiding them in their houses and always take them out for sight-seeing to refresh their brains and minds.
As a person with disabilities I face the following challenges:
1. People still stigmatise me despite all I do
2. No job opportunities: they feel that I cannot do anything so do not employ me.
3. Difficulty in getting money. I avoid the expensive life but I have to pay for my needs. If people are paying 50 francs for 20 litres of water I will likely pay 200 francs.
4. When going out I need personal assistance. If there is no one to help I have to pay a child and this often makes me late.
5. I cannot afford to fix an engine to my tricycle.
6. People think that they should decide for me, thus hindering my progress. They think that handicapped people cannot reason for themselves.
As a person with disabilities, I still have some advantages in life. One is that my disabilities hinder me from moving from door to door and this helps me to stay away from Gossiping, Jealousy, Fornication and many others things. Another is that it makes me focus on important things and concentrate on my work. As a leader I have also learned to understand the way different people with disabilities reason.
Many thanks to God almighty.
To my Mum and Dad, not forgetting my brothers and sisters for bringing me up
To the missionary sisters, Sisters Josephine and Mary O’Shea.
To the Presbyterian Church in Cameroon for their support for me.To Sister Judith of Emmanuel Sisters, Bafut.
To Pa Adamu Kinyung who has supported me so much in the work in the field.
To all parents and carers of children with disabilities and to all persons who are standing by me to see that there’s improvement in the lives of persons with disabilities. Your works shall be rewarded by God.
Also to Mr Nincho Samuel for his advice and encouragement and to all who have been praying for me.
May God bless you all. Signed: Tabitha