In Ghana, with help from the Garu Community-Based Rehabilitation program, women and men with disabilities are courageously meeting their needs—and challenging the stigma they have faced for their whole lives.

Aruk Atampure doesn’t go by his birth name. Instead, everyone in the community in Ghana where he lives and works calls him “Owner.” That’s because he spends each day earning an income as the proprietor of a store.

When Aruk was a small child, he contracted polio, losing partial use of his legs. This caused him to be stigmatized by his family and others in his community. For a long time, when people looked at him they only saw his disability.

One day, a staff member from the Garu Community-Based Rehabilitation program identified Aruk during a survey of his community. In order to help him get around, they provided Aruk with a tricycle. He also had the opportunity to receive an education.

Aruk being interviewed by a project coordinator.

Aruk’s biggest opportunity came through the support Garu provides for small business development. Equipped with a loan and entrepreneurial training, he started a shop selling mobile phone credits under a simple umbrella. Now, he has earned enough money to move into a permanent space. Reflecting on the help he received at every stage of this journey, Aruk comments, “I am so grateful.”

Florence Ayambilla was also affected by polio at a young age. Her family started to view her as a burden because she developed a physical disability.

When the Garu program staff met with Florence, she was also given a tricycle, as well as training to become a professional kente weaver. Now, Florence earns an income making beautiful cloths and training others to do the same.

“My life and that of many of my colleagues who have disabilities have been transformed,” she reflects.

The Covid-19 pandemic has made it necessary to modify the ways the Garu program is serving its community. Fields visits, like the one that helped Aruk, have been suspended. Vocational training has been interrupted as those who usually access it have sheltered at home.

Yet signs of hope remain. From sewing lessons to hair-dressing kits, the skills, supplies and capital made available to Aruk, Florence and others have allowed them to continue meeting their economic needs during this difficult time. As Garu remains committed to helping those in need, so do those who have been helped: “I am prepared to share my experiences with others. I hope they will have the opportunity to own a business like me one day,” says Aruk.

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