By Fru Rita Ngum
Grace Ngong, 39, is a woman with visual impairment who now lives in her own house built with support from the Community Based Rehabilitation Services (CBR) of the CBC Health Services. The five-room house which hosts the Kibomnie Association of Persons with Disability (APWDs) is located at Ngeptang, Noni Subdivision in the Northwest Region of Cameroon.
She tells me that she lost her sight at an early stage of her life. “I became blind at the age of 4. My eyes started to pain and later I realized I couldn’t see again. My mom took me to the school for the Blind in Kumbo which is now known as the Inclusive School and Sign Language Center, where I learned how to write through brail and completed my primary education,” Grace narrates.
After her Primary Education, she was enrolled into Government Bilingual High School Kumbo where she wrote her GCE Ordinary Level but unfortunately didn’t make it. She was about to go through one of the most difficult times in her life. Upon her return to the village in Ngeptang, her father died and her mother also became blind.
“Before going to school, I thought I was the first blind women in the world but while at school, I met other people with visual impairment which gave me hope to carry on,” Grace explains.
After failing the GCE Ordinary Level, Grace felt her hopes and education journey had hit a rock. She couldn’t continue with school and rewrite the exam due to financial hardship. As she was about to experience a bottom low, hope was rekindled in her once gain.
“I came in contact with CBR and this marked the beginning of another side of my life. CBR loaned me FCFA 25000 which I invested in my own small business. After a while, I was able to refund the money. This renew CBR’s confidence in me, motivating CBR to support me with items like Maggi, sugar, Savon, garri, and rice to expand my business,” she explains.
As Grace’s business began to expand, she would experience yet another challenge, this time as a result of progress. Her small shelter became too small to accommodate her and her business making her to start thinking of a house of her own. She resolved to write to the Prime Minister of Cameroon asking for assistance that would enable her realize her dream house and the only support she got was two steel corrugated zinc sheets.
Grace reveals that CBR has never stopped supporting her in any aspect of her life. CBR in her strive to assist Grace supported her with building blocks, enabling her to remodeled her house from the four rooms she had managed to construct to five rooms. The upgraded stated of the house meant that Grace would no longer see it just as a normal house but proudly refers to it as an ‘edifice’. “I now live in a house of my own thanks to CBR,” says the visibly elated Grace.
From struggling to live in a shelter to being able to host the Kibomnie APWDs (where she is a Founder and Coordinator) in Ngeptang in a house of her own, is a rapid progress that couldn’t have been without CBR’s support. . She notes that the creation of the association is the outcome of her friendship with her school mate, Charles Nyabe, a PhD holder and person with visual impairment whose support in its conception was invaluable.
The Association started very timidly but has now greatly grown with a membership of 65 persons thanks to continuous support from CBR. Three girls with disability in the group have been able to acquire vocational training as a result of Grace’s fruitful advocacy to stakeholders.
Grace is one of the persons with disability who have braved her disability to bring a huge positive impact to the society. She is more resourceful to the Noni community through her contributions to development in the area. She dreams of achieving much more for her community and society. Her focus is also on growing her business. She hopes to also learn a trade. Grace is able to effectively take care of her visually impaired mom.
It should be noted that CBR’s support in Grace’ life is not just because she is a woman with disability, but rather because she is able to break all barriers by investing her own personal efforts to improve on her own quality of life. Her story is a huge encouragement to persons with disability who have resigned to despair, reminding them that through personal efforts first and then with the community’s support they can make it.