Raphael Bareyi, a member of Harare Innercity United Methodist Church, has made it his mission to improve the lives of people with disabilities in Zimbabwe.
In September, he distributed 11 wheelchairs in Harare, Rukweza, Stoneridge, Nyazura and Kapatamukombe in Mount Darwin. Members of United Methodist Men also were given wheelchairs to donate through their outreach programs.
Bareyi, who wears leg braces, acknowledged that people with disabilities face obstacles from birth.
“When I was born,” he said, “my mother and father were divorcing.” When he was 6 months old, he continued, “both parents failed to take responsibility (for) my welfare. I was left … in our rural field for three days.”
He contracted polio, which left him paralyzed on his left side. Seeking answers, his mother took him to Jairos Jiri, a center in Harare for people with disabilities.
“My class teacher observed that I had challenges at home and difficulties in walking,” Bareyi said. “He invited my father to the school for counseling and assisted me as I was doing so well in my studies.”
Today a qualified chartered secretary, tax accountant and an elected audit member of the West Zimbabwe Conference, Bareyi has worked for more than 20 years in Zimbabwe, Malawi and Mozambique. He and his wife have four children.
“Over five years, we have distributed more than 100 wheelchairs throughout Zimbabwe,” Bareyi said. He credits Life Ministries in Zimbabwe and North America for their part in the project.
“I am happy to receive five wheelchairs to help children go to school … and comfortably sit alone,” said Rachel Kaziti Madzana, a resident in Stoneridge, a Harare suburb. She said 17 more children await wheelchairs, ideally, some with remote control.
Bareyi said his calling to help disabled people in Zimbabwe started on Dec. 3, 2014, when he made a Sunday school presentation at Innercity United Methodist Church.
He noted that since 1992, the United Nations has promoted the International Day of Disabled Persons, observed every Dec. 3. The purpose is to increase understanding of disability issues and mobilize support for the dignity, rights and well-being of individuals with disabilities.
“Now I feel normal,” said Memory Machiri, 17, who received a wheelchair. “I used to cry. ‘Why?’ I had hard times walking to school.” She wondered why both she and her 13-year-old brother, Victor, have disabilities.
Today, she said, “I am confident that I will be successful; let us pray that God will bless me.”
Bareyi said most individuals with disabilities “do not attend school, play with other children, or have registration documents such as birth certificates or national identification. They are not exposed, locked in rooms and waiting for God to take them away.”
He pointed out that many individuals with disabilities are born into poverty so they cannot afford crutches, orthopaedic shoes, braces, hearing aids, lotions, eyeglasses and other “things they require; hence, they end up in the streets begging.”
Bareyi said men often divorce their wives or abandon their homes when a child with disabilities is born into the family. Raising the child on her own, the mother encounters many difficulties. He said parents or relatives should be encouraged and educated to thank God for the blessing of the child and treat all children equally.
Preaching from the book of Job to a congregation of more than 200 at Mount Makomwe United Methodist Circuit, Marange District, 12-year-old Tinowimbanashe Marange, who has disabilities, said, “Have faith. Challenges come and go, and God is faithful. He won’t leave you unprotected; challenges are there to strengthen you.”
Marange is paralyzed from her waist to her legs and cannot walk by herself.
The girl’s pastor, the Rev Mathias Marinyame, said, “Tinowimbanashe … gave a touching personal life testimony.”
“God loves me,” Marange said. “Look at your situations. Don’t blame or ask why, but be grateful that at least you have something to thank God for.”
Marinyame said Tinowimbanashe is waiting for her grade-seven results. She has been recommended for a school in Bulawayo Midlands, King George IV, and hopes to get a high school scholarship. A licensed preacher, she is also a junior associate lay leader.
Through education and example, Bareyi said, parents and other relatives are beginning to understand the roles that individuals with disabilities can play in society and the community.
“The demand for wheelchairs, scholarships and support is very high,” he added.
Kumuterera is a communicator with the Zimbabwe West Conference.