Marion got polio as a young girl that left her crippled. When her parents talked about the number of children they had, they excluded her. They told her she would never amount to anything and there were no other people with a disability like hers in the village, so she thought she was not human.
At a young age Marion and a friend ran away to Makeni to find a new life. Her friend ended up abandoning her and she was left homeless. Marion begged in the streets, and found a different place to sleep every night. Then she heard about Women of Hope and some of the people she begged with invited her to go with them to a Women of Hope meeting. She discovered that she was not alone, that there were many women who had disabilities like hers.
Marion made friends through Women of Hope, and learned to make greeting cards and sell them through the Fair Trade Initiative. Now she has a house, and she pays the rent herself because her income is larger than her husband’s. Marion was selected by her peers to be trained as a Community Health Evangelist (CHE). In the eight-month training she learned basic community development principles, disease prevention, disability awareness and about her identity in Christ.
Marion’s Thoughts on CHE Training….
“The training helped me because it taught me about God. I did not know who God was and that is why I thought I was not a human being, because I didn’t understand that God is a good Creator and made me this way for a purpose. Now I understand that the sickness that crippled me is just a sickness; it wasn’t God cursing me and telling me that I am worthless. I understand that sickness happens, but it doesn’t mean that I am a bad person.
I used to never wash or take care of myself. I neglected my body because I didn’t believe I was worth anything. If you had met me then, you wouldn’t have wanted to sit here and talk to me because I smelled and I was dirty. I learned that I should think better of myself and of other people and not cause trouble. I used to cause trouble because I didn’t care. It used to be that nothing mattered because I wasn’t worth anything anyway. Now I respect others and they show respect back to me.
I never knew that when you come out of the latrine you should wash your hands and I was always sick. Now I will never leave the latrine without washing my hands. I will never touch food if coming from the toilet without washing my hands first. Because I didn’t know about God and how God felt about me, I didn’t take care for myself. I was so dirty that no one would ever think to eat my food. Now I cook for the neighbors and they eat it and are grateful. Before they wouldn’t touch it because I was so dirty they thought they would be contaminated by my food. All of these are changes I have learned from CHE training.
Now I talk to “walkafut” (her term for people without disabilities) and they listen to me. Originally they thought that if your feet were damaged, your brain must also be damaged. Now they stand there and gape at me because I am articulate and know what I am talking about. I am surprising people all the time because I have sense and they thought I didn’t have sense.
My prayer now is that God will give WOH leaders the strength to continue even though it is hard, because the things I am learning are so important and are changing my life and the lives of people around me. I want to learn more. What I am learning I am sharing with other people, and I do not want to give up even though it is hard. I was once in a bad condition and very depressed. I used to pray, “God please take my life”. Now I pray that God will give me longer life so I can serve him and help others.
My real parents died, and I was given over to stepparents. It was hard.”
Marion started to cry, but through the tears she concluded: “God has rescued me because He is my Father.”