Differently-abled 27-year-old Mathabi has drawn on his personal experiences to write a manual on navigating life with a disability, specifically in rural areas.
Growing up in the dusty streets of Dididi village, outside Thohoyandou in Limpopo, Mathabi never allowed his disability to be a stumbling block towards getting an education and achieving his dreams. Today, he is a motivational speaker, author, marketing intern and a role model to many who are living with various disabilities.
Having overcome countless challenges associated with his disability, such as stigma and discrimination, Mathabi has written a book titled Life Worth Living to convey the message that no matter what challenges or obstacles people may encounter in their lives, they should never give up on their dreams.
Disability is the consequence of an impairment that may be physical, cognitive, mental, sensory, emotional, developmental or a combination of these, and it may be present at birth or only manifest later.
In his book, to be officially launched in August, Mathabi narrates how he managed to accept and make peace with his condition and lead a normal happy live, with the help of his parents and relatives.
Differently-abled: No excuse
Despite using his feet to do almost everything, including writing and eating, Mathabi does not believe that any form of disability should be used as an excuse for not being happy or not getting an education. This is a message that he regularly preaches to other differently-abled people.
With limited opportunities for people living with disabilities, Mathabi believes that if differently-abled people invest their lives in education, they will have better employment options or even learn to create jobs for themselves and others.
“I believe in education and that one can achieve anything they want in life through education. Education has the potential to change anyone’s lives for the better and not only in terms of getting good jobs, but education also equips one with knowledge and broadens their thinking. It is something that people living with disabilities should invest in,” said Mathabi.
Speaking to Health-e News from his home in Dididi, Mathabi, who is a marketing graduate from the Vhembe TVET college, and currently works as an intern at the same institution, said that he believes that parents or guardians of disabled children have a crucial role to play in preparing their children mentally.
While growing up, Mathabi said that other kids would tease him because of his physical appearance, but it didn’t bother him, as his parents had prepared him to face such situations.
“I will forever be grateful for the role my parents played in preparing me for the challenges that I was bound to face while growing up. They told me that I should not be bothered by what people say about me as they love me the way I am. That made me strong, even when other kids would tease me,” said Mathabi.
The father of one believes that his experience can go a long way to inspiring other children who are living with disabilities to have self-confidence and to believe there is a life for them.
“The main reason that I wrote this book is to show to everyone that no matter what challenges or obstacles they might encounter in their lives, they shouldn’t give up on their dreams. As there is a life after every situation,” said Mathabi.
“Had I listened to words of discouragement and took to heart what people said about me while growing up, I might not have completed my diploma as I might have been hiding at home. Yet here I am today, and I am proud of myself and of what I have achieve so far. I want to show people that my disability is just a condition, and it does not define who I am.”
Part of being human
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), disability is part of being human and almost everyone will temporarily or permanently experience disability at some point in their life. While a billion people – about 15% of the global population – live with some form of disability, this number is increasing.
Mathabi is also the founder of Vhumatshelo Hashu (Our Future), an NPO that assists rural youth with things such as career guidance and applying for admission at tertiary institutions. During his free-time, he often visits schools within the Vhembe district to give motivational talks.
“I always make sure that whenever I have a chance, I use it to motivate others, so make sure to visits public and special schools (for disabled) to offer motivational talks. Through motivation, people – especially school learners – can do more and work even harder towards achieving their goals,” he added. – Health-e News.
Watch this video produced for Disability Day