Dedication: I dedicate my life and my story to God, my family, my friends and my first and last forever and always superhero Catherine Constantinides
You see the girl in the wheelchair, and you think, “Oh, poor thing. She’s disabled. Life must be so hard for her.”
You walk right up to her, and then turn around and ask the person standing with her, “What does she have?” as though her wheelchair screamed that she was incapable of speaking for herself.
You hear she has Cerebral Palsy, and then you talk to her as you would to a toddler. You’re pleasantly surprised when she answers you with the intelligence of a twenty-something-year-old. You commend her on how smart she is, all the while thinking, “Poor thing.” You give her your pity with all the kind-hearted condescension that comes with having a fully-abled body.
The pity in your eyes cuts her to her very core but she smiles sweetly and lets you get away with it because she knows that you don’t know that the world would be a tiny bit worse without her in it. How do I know all this about that girl in the wheelchair? I am that girl in the wheelchair.
My name is Nisha Varghese. I am an ordinary 25-year-old in many ways except for the fact that I have Cerebral Palsy, which has left me in a wheelchair and with some degree of speech impediment; but things are not so bad. I have God, health, an awesome family, amazing friends, a real-life Superhero Catherine Constantinides, and I live in South Africa – the best country in the world (in my opinion).
In my late teens, after years of having a chip on my shoulder about having Cerebral Palsy, I decided to flip it and make Cerebral Palsy work for me – when you change your attitude your whole life will change. Now I’m making lemonade out of the lemons life has given me by blogging about my life and fundraising for worthy causes.
Let’s rewind and go back to the beginning of my life…
At 6 months of age, I was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy (CP) – an umbrella term encompassing a group of non-progressive, non-contagious motor conditions that cause physical disability in human development, chiefly in the various areas of body movement. Fast forward to age 13, when I was put on bed rest after having back surgery for Scoliosis (curvature of the spine). It was then that I saw an episode of Oprah featuring Kendall Ciesemier, one day after she had watched an Oprah Winfrey special on the AIDS epidemic in Africa and was inspired to take all the money that she had, put it in an envelope and sent it to WorldVision to ‘adopt’ an orphan. Kendall then went on to found an organization called Kids Caring 4 Kids in 2007.
A while after watching that show, I attempted to raise $1000 for UNICEF. Despite failing miserably, I learned a lot and used those lessons a few years later to raise $7 862 for The Water Project, Inc – the money was used to build a well for a community in Kenya. Since then, I have raised money $1 075 for the Not For Sale Campaign, $1 088.84 for the Elton John AIDS Foundation (UK), $5 307 for the Malala Fund, and $10 317.04 for Smile Train.
My life has not been easy, but with a good attitude, hard work, a boatload of perseverance and help from lots of people, I’ve achieved almost everything I’ve set my mind to. Extract from “My Wheelchair Doesn’t Define Me”: The Amazing Girl Who’s Raised Thousands For Charity