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Sightsavers Reports

Why Samuel is struggling to succeed in Sierra Leone

April 2014
Samuel chats on his mobile phone.

Samuel Brassay is a sharp, intelligent 37-year-old who wants to be a lawyer.

Education is his passion, and he wants to go to university. But he’s blind, and he lives in a developing country, and those two factors combined mean the odds are monumentally stacked against him.

Inaccessible workplaces and negative attitudes make it nearly impossible for people with disabilities to find work where Samuel lives in Sierra Leone. Without a job, he can’t pay college fees or even cover his rent. With an education, he’d be a valuable asset in his village, but without it he’ll struggle to realise his dream, and his community will be the poorer for it.

Stigma and discrimination

Samuel began to lose his sight as a teenager. He couldn’t build on his early promise at school as the extra support he required wasn’t available. He struggled to cope with his sight loss – and his situation got even worse when his family abandoned him. There’s a lot of stigma and superstition around disability in Sierra Leone, and people with disabilities are often deserted by their relatives.

Samuel said he had “no purpose in life – I wanted to die.” But after working with Foray Alpha, a community-based rehabilitation officer, he moved to a new village and gained skills to help him live more independently. As his self-reliance grew, his passion for learning was reignited.

Samuel with Foray Alpha, his rehabilition officer.
Samuel with Foray Alpha.

The impact of exclusion – and a solution

Samuel is determined to achieve his goals, but he’s worried. “Education costs so much that this cannot happen,” he says. Negative attitudes towards disability make finding work challenging in Sierra Leone. This means just affording rent is a daily battle for Samuel, so finding the money to restart his education – and buy the braille books and assistive devices he needs to learn – seems a long way off.

Samuel, as well as the 800 million other people with disabilities who live in developing countries, is the reason that Sightsavers’ Put Us in the Picture campaign exists. Every day, millions of people with disabilities living in developing countries are being held back, ignored and excluded in global plans to fight poverty. Aid programmes that benefit poorer countries often help everyone except the people who need it the most. And the result is a devastating amount of wasted potential, and an immeasurable loss to communities and economies around the world. We want to see all people given the chance to learn, earn and be happy. Do you?

Samuel walking in his village.
Samuel hopes for an education.

We want to see all people given the chance to learn, earn and be happy. Do you?

Samuel hopes for an education.

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