My name is Precious, and I grew up with my parents, four older siblings and five younger ones. Two of my siblings are now married, while the rest live with my stepmother in Agric, Ikorodu. Today, I live with a friend of my father’s, who is an omo-onile - he makes a living by collecting levies from landowners. He is married but his wife does not live with us.
I call him my guardian and when he is feeling generous or has had a good day at work, he’ll give me N200 for food. Other than that, I don’t depend on him to care for me or even to give me feeding allowance. You could argue that taking in a disabled girl, that isn’t his flesh and blood is more than enough; I could easily wallow in my current state – disabled, away from my family - but rather than continue to be helpless and dependent, I thought it wise to acquire a skill so I could make money to fend for myself. I am currently training to be a hair stylist, so there is a glimmer of hope that I will soon be able to look after myself. Until then, I am blessed that I am often gifted food by colleagues and concerned neighbours.
The blessing of being seen by others is the reason I am still here today, others in the community have seen past my disability and when they can always try to help. I will always thank God for the elderly lady who got me the training job at the salon. Since I started training, I have been given a hand dry and a towel with which I use to serve my customers. I don’t make any money yet, since I am still in training, though I have paying customers they pay directly to the owner of the salon, but I am glad for the opportunity, for the people I meet and the fact that people are happy enough with the work I do that they are willing to pay for it. Again, people continue to show me kindness, it is because of the generosity of those around me that I am able to fend for myself.
Most times, my boss gives me a little token which I use to cover my feeding. On good days, which are few and far between I have a little leftover which I use to cover transportation back home. There have been days where I have had absolutely nothing to eat and have had to go to bed hungry. When it’s really bad, I am forced to ask my boss for money for food. Sometimes, she gives and sometimes, she has no money to give. When she has none, I tell her not to worry about it because I know that it’s also hard for her. On such days, after work I go home and sit in front of the house until I begin to feel drowsy and eventually head in to sleep. There are periods where I know I will be hungry for days on end, and then there are times when business is good, and I know my boss will give me a little something that I can use to buy food. In the periods where I know money for food is scarce, I always pray my boss will bring her breakfast or lunch in to work and then I pray doubly hard that she doesn’t finish her meal so I can eat her leftover food – usually that is all I will eat that day.
When HUFFPED and TAP came round to gift our community food boxes, I was there and was lucky enough to get a food box. I was really grateful to receive it because the food fed my guardian and I for over a week.
Life can truly be challenging but for every new day I see I am reminded that I will be okay. My greatest desire is to one day be able to walk properly. I cannot stand or walk without any form of support and I experience a lot of discomfort in my legs. My parents told me that I could walk as a young child, but I have no memory of this. As far back as I can remember I have always been like this. I have been told that my maternal grandmother was fetish, and they believe it was her involvement with the occult that led to my disability. I have a hard time wrapping my head around this - why my grandmother would do that? How could I as a child have offended her to the point that she cursed me or what kind of things did she agree to that my limbs were used as payback?
I was given a wheelchair, and this was a godsend as it made moving around very easy, unfortunately it is now spoilt. Perhaps, I will be able to buy another when I have saved enough money. In the meantime, I manage with this makeshift wooden staff. Truthfully, a wheelchair is more comfortable, but it is also difficult to maneuver in front of our home. So, for now, the wooden staff is better than nothing at all. Fortunately for me, my customers are quite understanding and are willing to sit in positions that makes it more convenient for me to make their hair.
All in all I am grateful and hopeful.