Salome works as a financial analyst in Nairobi, Kenya. She is confident, fiercely independent and loves her job, but it wasn’t always this way.

 

Salome grew up in a slum, looked after by her grandmother, after both her parents died when she was 10. She tells us “it wasn’t a nice place to live for a young girl” and from an early age she remembers working hard to help her grandmother with odd jobs in order to put food on the table, and look after her two younger siblings.

There was nothing particularly unusual about Salome’s life; millions of people in developing countries are simply getting by, living in poverty. But when aged 15 Salome fell and injured her back, her life was turned upside down forever…

Following the accident, Salome suffered a serious spinal cord injury that left her unable to walk. Forced to move into a children’s home Salome describes “just living one day at a time” and faced an uncertain future.

Soon after the accident Salome realised that she was being treated differently. Her friends stopped visiting and started to imply that she was disabled because of something she had done in her past. They even suggested that her grandmother was a witch. Sadly in developing countries this type of reaction is not uncommon and stigma and discrimination against disabled people remains rife. For Salome however it simply spurred her on to want more for herself and her future.

Salome spent three years at the children’s home, using an unsuitable wheelchair that was provided by the hospital, and by the age of 18 it was simply not big enough or safe enough for her to use. It did not fit her properly and had no cushion, so she just used a soft cushion from her room. As a result she developed pressure sores, which if left untreated could have proved fatal. She described the wheelchair as making her feel “more disabled than I was.” 

In spite of these challenges, Salome knew instinctively that with the right support, she could achieve more. This is when she met Motivation a UK charity that works to improve the quality of life of disabled people in developing countries. Salome attended one of Motivation’s peer training camps, where experienced wheelchair users act as mentors to share their stories and expertise to help build the confidence and self-esteem of others.

At the same time, Salome was referred to a wheelchair service trained by Motivation, where she was assessed, prescribed and fitted with a wheelchair suitable for her individual needs and environment.    

The change was instant. Salome learnt how to look after her health and better care for herself. She also became inspired by those around her, and realised that she could enjoy the life that she had always aspired to.

Before I thought who would want to have a child with me? [After the training], I met people who had children and realised it was possible. I saw the reality of people with disabilities looking after children.

The biggest change in Salome however was the realisation that she too could take back control of her life, strive to do more and share her confidence with others.    

I feel like I have a purpose now and can help people that were in my situation.  

And for Salome this gave her the boost she needed to go and seek work. Today Salome is studying for a Masters, while she works as a Financial Analyst for a firm in Nairobi.

Motivation acknowledges that Salome’s story is a positive one, and that not all disabled people are so fortunate. The stigma and discrimination that Salome faced means that finding work is often a major challenge for those living in poorer countries. It’s becomes a never-ending cycle – without a job you can’t pay for your healthcare, support your family or contribute to the local economy, which only serves to reinforce negative attitudes towards you in the community. The result is that 80% of disabled people in developing countries live in poverty, unable to access work.

But what Salome’s story also shows is that disabled people in the developing world are ready for change. Not only are they willing to play a full and active part in society, but with the right support and training they are able to take control and drive the change they want to see in their lives.

This is why Motivation has launched a brand new appeal called Ready, Willing and Able, which aims to unlock the potential of disabled people and give them a fair chance to work their way out of poverty. Launching on 3rd December to coincide with the International Day of Peoples with Disabilities, the appeal will run for three months. Motivation is also delighted to announce that the UK Government has agreed to double all donations to the appeal, which means your donation goes twice as far.

 By supporting Motivation’s Ready, Willing and Able appeal you can have a lasting impact on people like Salome, helping to inform disabled people of their basic rights and how to stand up for them. As well as the provision of job-skills training, Motivation will work with families, communities and businesses to challenge the discrimination that leads to the exclusion of disabled people in society. And by undertaking awareness raising activities, including going into businesses to talk about the legislation around employment of disabled people and highlighting the benefits of a more inclusive workforce, this appeal will help to break down the barriers that prevent disabled people from working.

Motivation recently met with Salome again and she shared her thoughts on why this approach and peer training in particular is important:

The changes it brought to my life [are] amazing. We need to change society and help [disabled] people think they are not different. If we had peer training for 5-10 years longer, there would be less of a stigma around disability. I don’t have to walk like another person to make money and live in my own place.