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Appreciate Your Disability, Appreciate Life

Editor's Note: The following article is reprinted from Daily News, Government of Botswana, November 4, 2005.

Hukuntsi, Botswana Press Agency (BOPA)--A United States inspirational author, Sarah Breathnach, once wrote: Quiet your mind, rope in the restlessness, be here, learn to labour, learn to wait and learn to wait expectantly.

A lot of people would take these words lightly, but for Connie Mothibamele, learning to appreciate her disability helped her appreciate so much more in life.

Being born with a disability seems hard to a lot of able-bodied people but being blind is seen as one of God's worst punishments, yet there is nothing God cannot achieve, says Mothibamele.

This mother of two has been battling with lack of sight ever since she was born. This jolly mother has been blind all her life but that has not deterred her from living life to the fullest.

When BOPA visited her at her home in Hukuntshi, nice fruit baskets and breakfast trays made from cane ceiling and beads were displayed neatly in her working room. A look at them gives one the impression of an artistic designer with superlative eyesight and gifted hands. These are the products of Mothibamele. With precision she interweaves and rolls the cane threads like a seasoned designer. Unfortunately she cannot see the beauty of her products and does not know what they look like.

She attended school at Pudulogong Rehabilitation Centre in Mochudi, an organization that imparts practical skills. She was trained in basket weaving.

"I was born blind and I was enrolled at Pudulogong at a very tender age. I was taught basket weaving. I completed my studies in 1988. I have a certificate because I passed with flying colours," Mothibamele says in a high-pitched voice.

She knows that her products are the best in Hukuntshi and are liked. She feels and appreciates the beauty by touching. "Maybe one day God will give her some light so that she can see the beauty of her work," her cousin, Kealeboga, says.

Seated on a chair and donning a white t-shirt, green skirt and matching shoes, Mothibamele speaks in the highest of tones about her family, love for life, and refers to her childhood education woes.

"I stay with my two kids here although one is in Tshabong at the moment. The other one is working. They are the ones who help me now that my mother passed away a few years ago.

"I grew up in a very strong, supportive family that loved me so much, but the neighbours' children ridiculed me. However, I was not bitter because I knew I was not responsible for my condition," she says.

After she completed her studies in Mochudi, she returned home and, with the help of FAP (Financial Assistance Policy), started weaving baskets, trays and garden chairs, which she sold to those who visited her home.

"In 1991, FAP gave me money which I used to order materials, and I started weaving and selling to people. I am proud to say I raised my children with the money I generated from selling my products. Though it was not enough, we managed."

Mothibamele has also exhibited her products at different shows, including the Gaborone International Trade Fair and the Women's Affairs national women's exposition.

"I love weaving with cane because it is not very common in these areas; therefore I don't have much competition. The other thing is that, with cane, you can wash it unlike other materials used for weaving. You can weave it back when it becomes loose," she explains.

However, she says that although her business boomed when she started, this has changed because of the high prices caused by the value added tax and currency devaluation.

Mothibamele says prices depend on what the customer wants to buy. "I have trays of different sizes, as well as large and small baskets. Because the raw materials are imported, they are very expensive," she explains.

"When my mother, who was my main helper, died everything seemed to have died with her. I cannot find addresses of companies I ordered from. When I go to the FAP office, they cannot find my documents because they have since moved from their Tsabong office.

She does not know what she will do when the raw materials get finished. However, she believes that everything happens for a reason and maybe God has a plan for her.

"I believe so much in God and that keeps me going. I wish people could stop wallowing in self-pity and stand up for themselves so that we better our lives."

Her advice to other people with disabilities is that "there is nothing you can do to alter that you are in the midst of God's love for you."