‘Some Africans think that a disabled person in the family must be a grandfather’s curse or the person must have done something wrong that has caused them to be like this’– Raphael Botsyo, (Ghana’s 100m wheelchair athlete).
Raphael Botsyo believes that it is all about education. Losing his legs to Polio at the age of six, he believes that he can help to change people’s perceptions and states that disability can be more in the head than in the mind. The four elite disabled sportspeople of Ghana have taken it upon themselves to change perception and people’s minds about disability.
According to his account, funding from the government is low and to find the best equipment to compete with the world’s elite Paralympians is a challenge. He counts himself as lucky with this being his third Olympic appearance since he started playing sports at the age of 15.
He states: My nation has never bought me any equipment. They always come in to support me in major competitions, but it seems the wrong way round. The biggest difficulty for young disabled people in sport is getting from the first level upward. That needs to change. We need to support our young athletes with funding for equipment, training and travel: that is one of the greatest challenges.
The lack of support and funding from the government has led the Paralympians to look elsewhere. ‘Right to Dream’ is a programme in Ghana which is being funded by many businesses to help the next generation of athletes. The programme helped set up training camps at the University of Exeter and the official National Paralympic Committee Training Camp in Bedford. The athletes were able to train there for a fortnight and competed in warm-ups against athletes from the Ivory Coast, Senegal, Morocco, Lesotho and Tunisia.
This programme has helped to produce four Paralympians for the Ghanaian team: Raphael Botsyo (100m wheelchair race) Anita Fodjour (wheelchair racing), Charles Narh Teye (powerlifting) and Alem Mumuni (Para cyclist).
‘We see this as our big year…..the way the London Olympics was branded together with the Paralympics has put disability on the foreground. The message is simple: having a disability should not hold you back. We are looking beyond the Paralympic Games. Winning a medal is part of the dream, but because we qualified to be here, that already makes us winners. We are here to make a mark, put the message across, and sow the seeds for the next generation of disabled athletes. We are on a mission.
GUBA wishes all the Paralympians the best of luck and we are hopeful for a great outcome. To show our support, GUBA has composed an Olympic song to celebrate the outstanding athletes.
To listen to the song, click this link (feel free to share and tweet this link): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z6QdOCp0IFY
Account by Raphael Botsyo. Edited by Claudia Andrews