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, Lagos. 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 feels generous or has had a good day at work, he gives me N200 for food. Other than that, I don't depend on him to care for me or even provide me with a feeding allowance. You could argue that accommodating a disabled girl that isn't his relative is more than enough.
I didn't want to be a burden to him or anyone, so I thought it wise to acquire a skill to make money to fend for myself. I could have chosen to wallow in my current state – disabled, away from my family - but rather than continue to be helpless and dependent, I'm training to be a hairstylist. Until I complete my training and start to earn some income, I am blessed that I am often gifted food by colleagues and concerned neighbours.
The blessing of being seen by others is why I am still here today. People in the community have seen past my disability and when they can, they 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 drier and a towel I use to serve my customers. I don’t make any money yet, because I am still in training, the customers I tend to pay directly to the salon owner. However, I am glad for the opportunity, for the people I meet and the fact that people are happy enough with my work 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 can 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 the cost of 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 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 into 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 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 challenging 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 make it more convenient for me to make their hair.
All in all, I am grateful and hopeful.