Overcoming the barriers with my clubfoot

Veronica Ndi Ngum
Posted December 8, 2016 from Cameroon

I was born with a clubfoot deformity and come from a low income/poor family in the North West Region of Cameroon. As a child born with a clubfoot, I faced a lot of myths, stereotyping, stigma and marginalization because societal and family perception placed me in the category of persons with disabilities. One common cultural practice in my village is that when a baby is born after twin babies, he/she is name with a specific name to identify him/her as a sibling to the twin babies. I was born after some twin babies but not named as our culture demands. My mother did not notice my deformity from birth but only noticed it when I was learning to walk. Every time she complains to my father that this child has difficulties taking up her right leg my father will hush her by saying “she is just learning to walk, when she will be use to walking, she will adjust”. Before my deformity could be clearly visible, my father had long died. Death did not give him the opportunity to see how my mother struggled with me in trying to repair my clubfoot.

As I grew up with the deformity, societal perception looked upon me as a cursed child. In primary school I was not given the opportunity to participate in events and activities as a normal child. Back at home I was love and treated with extra care and over protection. That notwithstanding my mother will let me do chores as my siblings but weighing on my strength. When I completed primary school, an aunt of mine who also had a daughter with deformity on the knees had taken her daughter to a hospital for repairs. She then advised my mother to take me to that same hospital to also repair my leg. My mother took me for my first repair at the age of 11 years old when I just left primary school in 1987.That first surgery did not heal any results because as a child I need someone to follow me up closely. I was not leaving with my mother because coming from a poor home and have lost my father, relatives of my father had to support my mother by taking some of her children to live with them. They did not show any interest to make my surgery successful, so my deformity reoccurred. I continue to live with the deformity and my elder brother who had overtime trained to be a hair dresser was working in a hair dressing salon. One of his customers, a pregnant woman at that time came to do her hair and was expressing the need for a baby sitter for her yet to be born baby. My elder brother told her about me and finally I went to live with the family as a baby sitter. I lived with them for sixteen years and they were good to me. They did not focus on my deformity so much but treated me as a normal person. At the beginning they asked me a few questions about my life and deformity and as time went on they were very satisfied with me. Through my stay with the family as a baby sitter with a clubfoot, I went to secondary, high school and the university. During my school days, I will put together being a baby sitter and a student, struggling to make ends meet. I made sure I was not over excited with school and forget to serve my master. Thank God I was able to make it through successfully

After the university, I was working in a super market as cashier. One day a reverend sister of the Franciscan congregation came in to buy and I was the one to attend to her. When I walked towards her, she screamed “Oh what a beautiful girl, I do not want to see you limping”. Then I asked her what could be done. She told me to come to Saint Joseph’s Children and Adult Home (SAJOCAH), a rehabilitation center where she works and I will be counseled on what to be done.

I had my second surgery in 2008 at an adult age and it was successful because, I was conscious of how to take care of my clubfoot. After a lot of follow ups and finally resulting to adapting all my shoes, I was employed in SAJOCAH as a cashier. I worked with them for three (3) years and had the opportunity to go back to school. I had saved enough money to pay my professional school. I went back to school and obtained a diploma in Project Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation from the Pan African Institute for Development West Africa, Buea, Cameroon.Today I still fall in the category of PWD because my clubfoot was repaired at an adult age which is not completely perfect. I still were supports in my shoes and I still limp. But unlike before I can wear better and nicer shoes and also have more strength than before. I can even wear flip-flop which I have never wore before. As I have accepted my fate, I chose to also focus my career on issues of disabilities and all vulnerable persons. I volunteer as a Program Manager in an organization for persons with disabilities where I have gained a lot of skills on disability and inclusive development. With inspiration from this organization and the skills I have already, I am the founder and owner of the Community Association for Vulnerable Persons (CAVP). I feel victorious over my clubfoot because I have gone through all the challenges overcoming the myth, stereotyping, stigma, and marginalization and taken a leap over my barriers. I am assertive and have a high self-esteem with full confidence. I am very satisfied with my carrier ambitions and as I am a role model for my peers with disabilities, I do my best to encourage them to be confident of themselves and know that it is never too late to achieve what you desire in life

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Jill Langhus
Dec 08, 2016
Dec 08, 2016

Hi again Veronica. Thanks for being vulnerable and sharing your story so that you can inspire other women with disabilities or even just challenges. It's inspiring and I'm proud of you for sharing and stepping up. I love your optimism, perseverance and also that you mentor other people with disabilities.

Veronica Ndi Ngum
Dec 13, 2016
Dec 13, 2016

Thanks Sister with professionals like you am unstoppable