This blog was produced by Daniella Kennedy and Ibrahim Gandi, Research Assistant, CODOHSAPA. Daniella wanted to share her story as part of ARISE’s exploratory research phase in Dwarzark community, Sierra Leone. Daniella is a wonderful, friendly and peaceful person. She is strong and passionate about education. She wants to raise awareness about some of the challenges she faces trying to have a career and about the way people think about her within her community. She believes that her dreams can be achieved because she believes in the potential within herself.
My name is Daniella Kennedy. I am living with my parents and two brothers in Dwarzark community one of the informal settlements in Freetown, Sierra Leone. My father is a commercial bike rider ‘‘okada rider’’ and my mother looks after me and my two brothers. I was born with a physical form of disability called Locomotor disability. I can neither walk nor pick or hold an object, so I rely on my family for physical support. I am treated like anyone else in my family. I don’t feel like a person with disability in my family. I am loved by everyone including our neighbours.
My mother (Isata Kennedy) is a hardworking woman. She is strong and passionate about taking care of me and my brothers. She has really been supportive to everyone in this family, although she faces lots of challenges and ridicule from people.
‘‘People have been saying different things about my child’s disability and also asking several questions about my patience in taking care of Daniella from childhood to now. Some even say that if they were the ones that gave birth to such child, they would have dumped or killed her rather than wasting time to raise her. Despite all their comments, I am keeping and caring for my daughter. She is the only daughter I have now. I believe my child is a gift from God and she was born this way for a reason. I will not consider any option other than taking care of Daniella. My greatest challenge at this moment is carrying Daniella in and out of the house, through which I have sustained back pain.’’
At an early age, I was admitted in a Home for Children with Disability. However, due to distance and financial challenges, my parents decided to find me a school within our community. But ever since, I have been attempting to gain admission into schools within my community – I have not been successful in this effort.
I have been marginalized by denying me admission into the community schools. But maybe it is because of my disability, because I can’t make proper use of neither my hands nor my feet, I can’t walk or hold an object. I am not happy being born this way, especially when seeing girls of my age doing things that I may want to do but I can’t because of my disability. I feel so bad. At times, I am frustrated by not having the opportunity to go to school. I’m a friendly person and I always want to go out with my friends to play but I can’t. Instead, they always come to me. I have lots of friends and I learn a lot from them. We play, laugh, watch TV and eat together. They always come to me after school and I ask them lots of questions about what they learnt at school.
Due to my love for education, I have learnt over the years to read and write using my mouth by reading text books and notes brought home by my brothers and from my interaction with friends. They teach me a lot at home. I can also plait my doll using my mouth. I can do different styles on my doll. I want to fulfil my dream of being educated and having a career, but ever since I left the home for children with disability at age seven, I have not been able to gain admission into any school in my community. My parents decided to take me back to the home with support from FEDURP/CODOHSAPA after five years of trying but unfortunately, I am faced with a new challenge. I have developed too much weight for mother and other people to carry me on their backs. I have no assistive device to carry me around and I need constant attention and assistance from people at this stage. With all these challenges, the chairman of the Home clearly stated that the home has been operating on its policies since its establishment. They only admit children with limited form of disability. According to the chairman, he asserted that my condition does not fall under any of their categories and the home does not have the necessary provision to take care of me.
“We just do not have the financial and human capacity to look after Daniella. We have tried all we can as an institution to help her but our capacities are just too limited to support her. No provision exists at the home for people with such form of disability.”
Often emphasized by the chairman, this has sealed my fate that I cannot be readmitted into the Home for Children with Disability because there is no one to take care of me.
As mentioned earlier with no assistive device, I find it difficult to move around especially when there is no one around to help me. As such, I want people to support me to have access to an assistive device to aid my movement around. On top of that, I have also undergone series of operations in order to improve my condition, for which I need support to have access to proper medical service. Lastly, I want to go to school and have a career – but with so much financial challenges and marginalization, achieving my dream has been really the most challenging for me.
Daniella is one of many children with disability out there, who go through similar challenges. She does not have access to an assistive device to help her move around. At age seven she managed to get supplied with a locally made wheel chair during her time at the Home for Children with Disability. And now, after several years the chair is not in good condition and leaves Daniella in much pain whenever she uses it. As ARISE we will continue working with Daniella to understand and share her needs and priorities with the public and further advocate for change and integration in federation activities.