By Bernard Chiketo
MUTARE – SHALOM Chikuni’s face glowed as she was rolled down a metal movable ramp from her home in Sakubva on the eve of her 19th birthday.
“It’s a perfect birthday present,” Shalom said with a beaming smile.
For the first time, she will no longer need to be carried out before being set on her wheelchair. Shalom was gifted the ramp by Zimbabwe Council of Churches (ZCC) on New Year’s Eve.
Attempts to navigate the stairs have on many occasions led to her hospitalisation with fractures. She has osteogenesis imperfecta a disorder of connective tissue characterised by brittle bones that fracture easily.
Her mother Patience Chikuni has lost count of the fractures she has had in her short life but estimates them to be well over 30. “I can’t recall but any slight mistake in handing her will lead to a broken bone,” she said.
Shalom was abandoned by his father when she was only nine months old due to her disability and he has not made contact since.
ZCC made the donation during a time it is conducting a survey to check on how friendly churches, institutions, and homes are friendly to people with disabilities. The survey is being conducted under the theme – national assessment on disability inclusion: towards a society fit for all.
Reverend Ruzivo who made the official handover said churches were on a drive to create a society that is accommodative of all persons regardless of any impairments.
“This is just an expression of our desire to have all barriers removed and we hope others will take up the challenge to ensure that everyone with any disability feels that they belong,” he said.
Patience who for nearly five years trotted around various charismatic churches and self-proclaimed prophets’ parlours in search of a miracle described the ZCC gesture as pragmatic and comforting.
“The church has helped us with something very practical in making my daughter’s life more comfortable,” she said.
She said they continued to pray for authorities to continue working on public infrastructure for them to be accessible to persons with disabilities.
“Mutare has rugged terrain and most places are just not accessible to persons with disabilities, making them feel like outsiders,” Patience moaned.