ONE LIMB AT A TIME: Begging Only Way of Life for Liberia’s Disabled

Armah Konneh is a war affected victim with one limb; he is one of the many disables who have created  jobs for themselves. Konneh directs drivers who search for parking spaces for their cars on Randall Street.

Says Konneh: “I have to come and hustle for my daily bread because I have three children in school. If I don’t do this, my children won’t eat and go to school.”

Konneh who does not have a profession, said he has been doing the job for three years and what he realizes, is just enough to enable him put bread on his family’s table.

Acting City Mayor Mary Broh once pointed out that she offered some physically challenged people jobs at the Monrovia City Corporation, but they turned down her offer, saying they make more money begging on the streets than working for her.

Konneh denied being a part of the group who refused Mary Broh’s job offer, saying that madam Broh did not confront the war affected victims, but he accused the group of 77 of sabotaging the job offer from the acting Mayor who meant well for them.

“I think Madam Broh went to the group of 77 who do not want to work because they get support from government but she did not come to us.

Who would not want to work for a living? If Mary Broh can only let me work as a security to guard her door for eight hours, I can do it. It is not easy; I don’t make anything from here, but what to do the children got to eat.”

These days, many disable persons are seen on various street corners in Monrovia, begging for money to make ends meet.

A few of them who went to school, are working in both the public and private sectors, while the bulk of them depend on begging to survive.

Quite recently, at the Monrovia City Hall, It was amazing to see two deaf and mute ladies, in the employ of the Monrovia City Corporation, engaged in an interesting conversation about a pre-independence Day party being held there. The older disabled lady, with an ID card bearing the name Kortu Barclay, is a casual laborer, who sweeps the city on a daily basis.

Acting Mayor Mary Broh spoke highly about the valuable contributions being made by disable women in the employ of MCC. She however expressed disappointment over the laziness of many, who experience various forms of disability, in Monrovia.

“The few disables I have working on my team are exceptional, but the bulk of them out there, do not want to work. I had intended to have several of them on board to support the Liberian job creation initiative; but, quite frankly, when I engaged some of them, and found out that they did not want to work,” She said.

Madam Broh disclosed:  “Many of the disabled ex-combatants with amputated legs and arms; and some members of the Group of 77’ told me straight up, that they make more money begging than working with MCC.”

Listing some work that disables could do, because of their condition, she said: “There are a lot of things they could do to help themselves. The blind could be helping in vocational training, while the lame could serve as custodians, or people who take inventories in the field,” she said.

James Binda, another disable with one arm, also does the same parking job as Konneh. James was very sad to hear that some of the other disable people refused Madam Broh’s job offer, saying:

“There are two types of disabled on the streets, we have the polio victims who are at the group of 77 and the war affected victims. The group of 77 is blessed because they have support from government but we the war victims have nobody to cater to us.”

James who is an agriculturist, says he was trained by a training center called New Era and was assigned in Sineo County, Southeastern Liberia but when the project closed down after the 2003 war, he came to Monrovia to seek greener pasture.

“If I could get a job to maintain City Hall garden, I would be happy, because agriculture is my job but I am only here to find food for me and my children, while I am out of job.”

These war victims with amputated limbs and hands are usually on Randell Street around the bank areas where people go and transact business and on Benson Streets around the supermarkets, where others go to shop. They find parking spaces for vehicles to park, so owners of the vehicles would pay them for their services, while some don’t.

It was noticed that these boys make sure they look after the parked vehicles until the owners return. If by any chance an owner does not pay anything to the person who found a parking space for him, they will say a lot of mean things to him.

The group of 77 which was established 1977, during President William R. Tolbert’s administration, to take care of the physically challenged in and around Monrovia.

Its operation was placed under the supervision of Vice President, United Methodist Bishop Bennie D. Warner’s office. The headquarters was situated on Newport Street, where a variety of social services were extended to the disabled.

Up to present, the group of 77 is still on Newport Street, but under the supervision of the second Lady, Mrs. Kartumu Boikai. Her office is engaged in taking food and non food items to the group of 77 compounds.