Growing into men without legs

They don’t have a foot and a leg to play football. Yet, they jolt about, run fast for the ball, hitting their fateful thighs on small stones, and biting sand on the hard ground. They find the ball, without a foot, and a leg, dribble past the normal bodies with the ball and fly a kick into the goal posts. They score, and jump up and down in celebration on those two thighs.

Fahad (2ndL and Samson) flanked by two
Wovicco officials

They are comfortable and happy in their own world. If they had the legs, we don’t know, what great footballers, they would become. Perhaps, they would grow up to be some of the greatest players from Africa.

It is mostly a beautiful experience to have a twin brother or sister. Twins are always a beauty to watch in our communities. Walking together in the streets, putting on similar clothes, being in the same class, passing with the same grade, being selected to the same university on the programme, twins are really flowers in our communities. But for twin brothers Samson and Fahad Issah of Kanyenda Village, Traditional Authority (TA) Kadewere in Chiradzulu District, they are flowers that wither in pain and distress—they have their own world of enjoying their twin brotherhood.

They are not only twins, but they share the same fate for they all have no legs. So, while they see other twins walk shoulder high together in the village paths, Sam and Fahad crawl together on their hands. They crawl on the same pace, side by side, walking through the village, visiting friends.

Their hands, cracked, torn and hard, bear the work that their feet would do. They use their hands to walk, to run in the football ground. They use the same hands to take their meals. While they see other twins of the same village, putting on fashionable similar shirts and trousers, they have no legs to put on a pair of trousers. But they look comfortable and happy in their own world.

Born on May 26 2006 to Enifa Yobo, their single parent, Samson, and Fahad were born with deformed legs. After their birth, they were referred to Chiradzulu District Hospital and later to Beit Cure Hospital in Blantyre.

At Beit Cure the small legs were removed and were given prostheses at the age of three. But as they grew up, the artificial legs became unfit. They later stopped using them and continued to live their fate. That has been their life. They were also once given wheel chairs but were not very able to use as that required some two people to be pushing them.

Now, at 14 years of age, they are in Standard Three at Chimwankhunda Primary School. They are now growing into men. In average school world, at that age, they were to be in Form One or Two. They do their best to walk crawl to the school, which is almost 1.3 kilometres away. In the scorching sun, they have to burn their hands to get to school. In the rainy season, they crawl in the mud to get to school.

“We do our best to walk to school. In class, our teachers love us. We do our best to work hard but in the last term, we failed exams. We all do better in mathematics and other subjects, but we both have problems in English,” said Fahad, when I visited their home. Fahad wants to work in the bank and Samson dreams to become a pilot.

Isaac Nangoma, a special-needs teacher at their school said the two boys are struggling in their studies mainly due to the challenge of long distance to school.

“I have known them since they were young. We have been doing our best to help them. At first, a certain Islamic organisation provided wheel chairs to them. Later, it was their elder sister, who was bringing them to school on bicycle. But I think we need to find a long term solution to their problem. Sometimes when the other one is sick, the other usually does not come to school, maybe it is the love between twins that always want to be together,” said Nangoma.

But when asked of what they desire most want in their lives, typical of the secret behind twins, both Samson and Fahad separately said they would like to walk again.

“Our greatest wish in this life is to have legs. To walk tall in the village, walk to school, to play football with a foot and be free with our friends,” Samson said.

Little friends we found chatting up the twins, say they love the two boys.

“They are calm and like peace. We usually come here to play with them in this space here, which we usually turn into a football ground. They also visit us in our homes,” said one of the friends who only identified himself as Gosten.

The father of the two twins divorced their mother some years ago and now it is Anifa’s job for Anifa to raise the two boys.

“Every day, I am watching them growing up into men but I am not sure what will become of them in future. Of course, they know how to do some work such as helping me in the maize field, moulding bricks and assisting me with house chores. But still I am not sure what will become of them,” said the 39-year-old Anifa.

A new organisation called Women of Virtue International Christian Charity Organisation (Wovicco), which learnt about the twins and visited them at their home, has the same worry about what will become of them when they grow into men?

As a first step to help the twins, Wovicco took them to Beit Cure International Hospital to see how specialists could help them with modern artificial legs. While Wovicco is doing its best to assist the boys, it is also asking well-wishers to help with the situation as it appears there is a lot to be done for them to acquire comfortable artificial legs and live a better life.

The organisation, which is mainly focusing on community fostering, has plans to establish more children’s clubs in Malawi to help children like Samson and Fahad grow into better men.

Wovicco says it has found a gap in the country in terms of mental health and child development. It has discovered that while it is good to provide material assistance to children with various physical and mental disabilities, it is also necessary to build their self-esteem while they are young by focusing on their mental health.

“While it is difficult to detect signs of depression and low self-esteem in children, many across the country are suffering various kinds of depression and mental health problems that lead them into low self-esteem. For example, while Samson and Fahad look well and happy in their world, I can see they have some mental health problems— they are suffering some kind of depression.

“There is pain in their hearts, which the world does not see. They are suffering in silence. They look at their physical and mental challenges and see a dark future, but it is our duty to show love to these kind of boys and help them grow into men. For Example, we have seen that Fahad, although he has some challenges, he can design and make a toy car from simple wires. This tells you he is innovative and we can develop that by raising his self-esteem and fostering the community to know how to treat such children,” said Wovicco executive director Lonely Phiri.Wovicco has already established a community children’s club in Bangwe Township in Blantyre and has plans to establish more of such clubs across the country to fight depression and low-esteem, but is currently looking for partner organisations and well-wishers who can assist in implementing the projects because it has discovered that mental health in children is really a neglected area in the country.

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