To mark International Day of Persons with Disabilities on December 3, Global Youth Ambassador Ernest Jacob Tuape tells how his brother has taught him to be more patient and caring towards others.
I look up in the sky and whisper a question to God: “What am I supposed to learn from all this?”
Sometimes I wonder if I’m strong enough to be a good brother. I sometimes feel so weak and incapable of making a difference in his life.
See, my only brother, Christopher, has multiple disabilities. He got cerebral palsy because of delayed birth. He can’t speak. Neither can he help himself in so many areas of life, like feeding himself, helping himself to the washroom, dressing up, and generally taking care of himself.
He is 25 years old now but he is entirely dependent on another person for his wellbeing. I sometimes ask myself what we could have done differently for him when he was still a child. But I can’t afford to think too much about that right now.
I have a duty to keep him safe, help him be a better person and be a light that shines his path as he keeps growing bigger and stronger.
The good news is that through physiotherapy he was able to walk. He hears too. Although my mother took him to several schools with the hope of helping him develop some skills, he wasn’t able to learn much.
We received a letter from the last school he attended saying they couldn’t handle his condition. That was the end of his school life, which was 10 years ago.
Every time I got back home from school and even today when I get back home from work, he welcomes me with a beautiful smile, a big hug and so much love.
When I was a child growing up, my brother’s condition didn’t bother me much. However, as I reached high school and adolescence set in, I was embarrassed by him.
I didn’t want my friends to know that I had a brother with disabilities. I didn’t want to be seen with him. I didn’t want to be associated with him. I know for sure that this was wrong. I was wrong to have this kind of attitude towards my brother simply because of his disabilities. Now I know better.
Everyone deserves the right to be loved, cared for and allowed to associate with others and not be discriminated against because of their disability.
Through my brother, I learned that anyone with a disability is as good as anyone else. My brother may not be able to talk or do so many things for himself. His brain may not have matured like any other person’s.
But for as long as I can remember, every time I got back home from school and even today when I get back home from work, he welcomes me with a beautiful smile, a big hug and so much love.
In his disability, he has taught me the gift of love. He has helped me appreciate humility. Through his situation, I have learnt to be patient, more caring, selfless and I’ve developed a spirit of kindness.
I may not be able to transform his life entirely. What I can do is be a good brother to him and show him that he matters.
Every child with a disability deserves to be shown that they are important, that they have a purpose to their being born on this planet and that they can make a huge difference in this world. They deserve to be given opportunities to grow and thrive.
My interest has always been in seeing children get the opportunity to read, write and express themselves confidently. I do this through running a children’s book club and donating books to individual children and community libraries.
Going forward, I’ll pay more attention to giving children with disability the opportunities to build their skills and become better people.
I hope we can all reflect on what role each of us can play in helping people with disabilities bring out the best in them.
When we hold each other’s hands, fight for one another and show confidence in the possibilities that can arise when people with disabilities are empowered, there’s no stopping the kind of transformation that could happen world over.
People with disabilities have so many lessons to teach others. It is crucial that everyone listens to one another and pays attention to each other’s aspirations. Together, we can build legacies that inspire another generation to keep hope alive.