Liberia: Wheelchair Gift Ends 69-Year-Old Liberian Father’s Crawling, Toting Time life

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Between 2014 and the 31st day of July, 2021, Mr. Fred B. Jackson (age 69 in year 2021) had been continually moving on his knees (with his both hands on the ground), or conveyed through the hands of his younger family members whenever he wanted to visit the toilet house or to bathe. He had also endured excruciating pains in his body—through his knees and palms— from the piercing of gravels, stones, and various sharp objects anytime he was “crawling” in the gravel-dotted compound of where he lives now or at another place far away from home.

But the crawling-related pains of the old man ended with the arrival of a new wheelchair at his home in Gbandi Community of Grand Cape Mount County from 11am of July 31, 2021.

When the presence of the wheelchair was announced by one of his grandchildren, the disabled father (both legs paralyzed) cried from his screamed from his bedroom—“Thank you, God, Jehovah, for finally answering my long-time prayer!”

Seconds later, Mr. Jackson appeared outside, being carried in the hands of a boy introduced as Charles Flomo Jackson, age 15. In the boy’s hand, the 69-year old father appeared like an infant child on its parent’s hands.

“Thank you…thank you…thank you!” cried, of happiness, upon seeing the mobility aid parked, waiting to receive him.

The deliverer introduced himself and called the name of the person he was representing on delivering of the machine. “Please set the old man into the wheelchair,” the representative said to the boy still holding the old man in his arms.

“I’m out of words to express my gratitude to you and my mother, Madam Naomi B. Harris and her organization’s partner, who together sent this wheelchair through you,” the old man said when he was in his gift.

The wheelchair was provided by the Monrovia Rehabilitation Center (MRC), a physical rehabilitation department of the John F. Kennedy Memorial Center, of the Liberian Government, situated in Monrovia. MRC’s gesture was through appeal from Madam Naomi B. Harris, president of the National Union of Organizations of the Disabled (NUOD), an independent body, involved in capacity building and advocating for persons with disabilities in Liberia, using the United Nations Conventions on Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD)

A father of two children, Mr. Fred B. Jackson told this writer he wasn’t born with disability, and he trained in building construction and had relied on his technical knowledge to provide his family’s needs.

“I learnt building construction at Liberia Opportunities and Industrial Center, or LOIC, in 1982, and later worked with the Liberia Water & Sewer Corporation, LWSC, in 1983. At LOIC, I picked floor tile laying and plumbing as my main areas. And I was a member of the LWSC’s team responsible for connecting or disconnecting water pipe lines on the Liberia-Sierra Leone Highway in 1983,” Mr. Jackson narrated.

On survival methods during the early period of post civil-war, Mr. Jackson said he was a member of a team of freelance building contractors—all residing and living in Brewerville (Montserrado County)—where he migrated from. 

On his disability, the 69-year old man said he wasn’t born with disability.

“In 2013, I started feeling sudden numbness, beginning with under my feet. I couldn’t feel anything under any of my legs, except when I stepped on a nail, piece of broken bottle, or another sharp object. My entire both legs became dead in 2014. I couldn’t move on my legs anymore. And I now became crawling, or carried by people at places I couldn’t cross due to my disability,” he explained.

In his disability, and unemployed, Mr. Jackson, a native of Lofa County, situated in Northeastern Liberia, occupies a small room  in his family’s seven-room house made from mud.

“For food, I depend solely on my brothers’ and sisters’ children. But most times, I experienced severe hunger, especially between eleven o’clock and four pm, when each person is away, trading,” he came to another post-disability challenge.

Charles, assigned to toting him, is mostly absent—learning in the 7th grade class of  the Bethel Community School in the same community.

Mr. Jackson got the wheelchair, offered to him, through “divine intervention with my Jehovah, God,” he said, responding to this journalist’s question of story of how he got the machine. He was listening to a radio program on issues with persons living with disabilities in Liberia.

“After the program, I begged the program’s host to give me the telephone contact number of his host, who later introduced herself as Naomi B. Harris. During the discussion, I told her about my physical feature and my paramount need: wheelchair,” he added.

But Mr. Jackson has another “major need,” he disclosed during the interview with this writer.

“I desperately need a motorbike, which would end extreme hunger I experience during afternoon’s time, when my feeders are out of the house, selling around. I pray for opportunity to be on the radio soon, so that I beg people and organizations to help me with a motorbike. I will find a trusted person to operate it in the traffic for me,” he explained.

On personal family, Mr. Jackson said he is alone.

“I have only two children, boys, from different mothers. The first child is now twenty seven years old. Living by himself in Brewerville. The second child is with his mother, who abandoned me due to my disability. I don’t know the whereabouts of the woman and my son,” he replied.

NUOD’s president, Madam Naomi B. Harris, authenticated Mr. Jackson’s claim of connecting with her through a radio program. “Praise should go to God first for what Mr. Fred B. Jackson is praising me for, and secondly to the Monrovia Rehabilitation Center for honoring my plea for a wheelchair for him,” she began.

She added that, about five weeks ago, her host on a radio program, named “We Are One”, exclusively for discussion of issues with disabled persons, gave her a phone number of a man the radio man said had called him to connect me with his guest on the radio.

“He introduced himself as Fred B. Jackson, disabled, and asked me for help. As a Christian, I do not want to go into what I did for him.”

The Monrovia Rehabilitation Center worked through its Project Manager, Mr. Dorber Akoi, on the appeal of NUOD’s president on physically challenged Fred B. Jackson’s mobility need.

Mr. Akoi told this writer that the  MRC was founded in 2000 by Handicap International, and is now the physical rehabilitation department of the John F. Kennedy Memorial Hospital, and the Center has provided mobility aids to over 20,000 persons with disabilities through only organizations they are members of.

“The wheelchair we offered to Mr. Fred B. Jackson, on the appeal of Madam Naomi B. Harris, is free of charge. The wheelchairs and other mobility aids we offer to disabled persons are from donors. The criterion for qualification or benefitting is the person needing it should be a person with disability and the persons should ask,” Mr. Akoi added.

The mobility aid to physically challenged Fred B. Jackson has “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints” inscribed on the body.

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