Monday, January 12, 2009

Models for the Physically Handicapped: Emmanuel's Gift

In another documentary, watch Emmanuel's Gift, the story of a orphaned, disabled Ghanaian who rode across Africa on his bicycle bringing a message of hope and changing perceptions about physical handicaps. You can see the trailer here and below:

From the World Bank profile on him:

Emmanuel was born in Ghana, with a deformed right leg and meager expectations. Abandoned by his father and shunned by his community, his path was pre-determined—become a beggar and/or rely on others for survival. But Emmanuel chose a different road. He would not sacrifice his dignity and be forced to the streets like others in his situation.

At the age of 13, he took matters into his own hands and started a shoeshine business, earning $2 a day. Building on the pride he felt in his work and accomplishment, Emmanuel set out to show the nation of Ghana that physically challenged individuals can actively shape their destiny—not just meekly accept it.

After receiving a bike from the Challenged Athletes Foundation, using his left leg only, Emmanuel pedaled 610 kilometers (almost 380 miles) across Ghana. He was determined to spread his message: disability does not mean inability. Impressed by Emmanuel’s thirst for equality and his hunger for change, CAF flew him to the 2002 San Diego Triathlon Challenge to participate in the 56-mile bike portion of the event. There he met world-class athletes like Rudy Garcia-Tolson, Paul Martin and others, who accomplish tremendous feats with the aide of high-tech prosthetics. CAF and a key partner, Loma Linda University Rehabilitation Institute, wondered if such a prosthetic might be the answer for Emmanuel, too.

Even after a week’s stay at the world-renowned rehab facility, Emmanuel was still having doubts about the surgery. In Ghana, such an operation could prove to be fatal. After sharing his fears with Rudy, who had both legs amputated above the knee at age five, he made up his mind. Emmanuel would undergo surgical amputation of his right leg above the knee, and receive a new prosthesis from Loma Linda. He would stand for the first time on two feet.

Today, Emmanuel can run, ride a bike using both legs, and wear trousers. He stands proudly, supported by his inner tenacity and strength of character—rather than the crutches upon which he once relied. After winning the prestigious Casey Martin Award from Nike, he decided to apply his $25,000 grant—matched by CAF—toward continuing to change attitudes and lives in his homeland, where one of 10 citizens is disabled. CAF’s Emmanuel Fund provides education and sports equipment, and ultimately, Emmanuel hopes to build a sports center for physically challenged people of Ghana.

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