- King Osagyefuo of Akyem Abuakwa is lending his name and authority to improve the status of Ghana's many physically disabled. Working with Ghana's renowned disabled athlete Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah and US humanitarian organisations, the outspoken King is helping to provide free wheelchairs to his people.
Growing up physically disabled in Ghana, like in most African countries, more than often means being destined to a demoralising and dehumanising life - either concealed from the public eye by ashamed family members, or thrown squarely into the public eye, as beggars. Strong forces are however in the process of trying to change attitudes in Ghanaian society and to provide the disabled with means of living in dignity.
These forces are represented, among others, by His Majesty Osagyefuo Amotia Ofori Panin, King of a 2.5-million member people in the eastern region of Ghana. Presented as a "champion for the disabled", King Osagyefuo today served as guest speaker for a major event in the USA, organised by the Free Wheelchair Mission, a California-based organisation.
The King, representing one of Ghana's main traditional Kingdoms, was chosen the organisation's main foreign speaker after his engagement to provide Ghanaians with free wheelchairs. During the California event, the organisation managed to generate more than US$ 200,000 - enough to buy 5,000 wheelchairs to disabled in developing countries.
- An investment of US$ 41.17 will provide the gift of mobility, dignity and the opportunity for a better life for just one physically disabled poor person in a developing country, says the Free Wheelchair Mission. Since 2001, it has distributed more than 24,000 wheelchairs in 37 developing countries including Afghanistan, Angola, Egypt, Ghana, Haiti, Iraq, Liberia, Rwanda and Zambia.
Ghana, however, has developed into a special case for the Californian organisation after it was contacted by Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah. Mr Yeboah was born disabled but raised to stand up for himself and keep his pride and dignity, in stark contrast to most of Ghana's estimated two million disabled persons.
The young Ghanaian became famous after he in September 2001 embarked on a bike ride across his home country, wearing a shirt that read "The Pozo," slang for a disabled person. His journey was documented in newspapers and on the radio and he gave a face to disabled Ghanaians and their fight for dignity.
Mr Yeboah has later teamed up with two Californian organisations - the Free Wheelchair Mission and the Challenged Athletes Foundation - to raise funds abroad and with the Minister of Education, Christine Churcher, and King Osagyefuo to coordinate work for the disabled in Ghana.
King Osagyefuo, meanwhile, has been noted as an outspoken Ghanaian prominent person, who has thrown his weight behind several campaigns. After doing an important work to promote environmental issues in Ghana and worldwide - the King is a board member of several international environment organisations - he has emphasised on the poor conditions for Ghana's blind and physically disabled people during the last years.
According to the Free Wheelchair Mission, King Osagyefuo gladly assists the organisation and Mr Yeboah with "customs clearance and vastly reduced fees and his estate can be used as a warehouse and distribution centre for the container loads of chairs." The King has promised to partner with the US group on future and larger shipments.
- Free Wheelchair Mission's goal in 2004 is to raise US$ 3,000,000 and deliver 75,000 free wheelchairs throughout the world, the group says in a statement released today. Many of those will go to Ghana.
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