Thursday is the first-ever International Day of the Girl. To commemorate this event, we're spending several days highlighting issues faced by girls who live in poverty around the world, such as early marriage and vicious exploitation. We're also talking about how access to an education can equip girls to live full lives and reach their God-given potential.
The story of Gracious illustrates just that. This 14-year-old girl has a passion for learning that has stopped at nothing -- even when her life was turned upside-down by an unforeseen tragedy.
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Gracious ran, walked, and played most of her life. But five years ago, everything changed.
“I suffered from cerebral malaria. I was in hospital for two weeks," she says. "I almost died, but God is good. I survived. However, I was feeling very weak… suddenly, I could not even stand up or lift my legs. I was shocked. I didn’t know what to do.”
That was it. Gracious had to start another life in another world.
“It was hard to adjust, having been a person who was able to walk before," Gracious says. "A lot of things I could do on my own had to be done by others. I could not go wherever I wanted to. I could not walk to my friends to play. They had to [come to me] -- and if they [didn’t], I [was] alone, feeling lonely."
As if this was not enough, Gracious had to leave school for two years because her parents could not afford to transport her to school every day.
“My parents could not afford to buy a wheelchair for me. I stopped school in Grade 5 then," she laments. "It was painful for me to stop school because I loved school. I was lagging behind while my friends were moving on with their education. I thought that was the end of my dream career.”
Thankfully, Gracious received a donated wheelchair and was able to get back to school.
But a year later, her wheelchair gave up completely -- it broke down. Efforts to repair it were in vain, she says.
“It has been difficult for me to be in school without a wheelchair. I had to depend on others to take me to class and back to my room," she explains.
"Sometimes, I would want to answer the call of nature, but there would be no one to take me there as quickly as I would want.”
The girl’s outlook on life was transformed when she received a new wheelchair through World Vision and Free Wheelchair Mission.
“The wheelchair has changed my life completely. I am now very focused on school. I am working hard, and I don’t want to delay," Gracious says.
"I can’t wait to be the newscaster I want be and work for ZNBC (Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation)," she continues. "This has been my dream career from the day I stopped walking. Patricia Pumulo, the newscaster I watch on ZNBC, inspired me to take up this career.”
The new wheelchair has given Gracious new hopes and determination to excel with her education.
“Now that everything is all right with me, I just look forward to finishing my education," she says. "The wheelchair made things easier because I am able to attend all lessons and don’t miss any. I am also able go for night studies in class, where there is solar power.”
Gracious says the wheelchair also helped her to start going to church.
“I had stopped going to church before I received a wheelchair, because there used to be no one to help me go there," she remembers. "Also, now I am able to play ball games using my hands. We go to play at the ground and just around the school premises. These are the things I used to miss before.
“Now I do a lot of things on my own. I don’t have to literally depend on others," she continues. "I go to wash, eat at the dining hall, and do many things on my own. My desire now is that when I start working in future, I want to support children who are like me. I know there are many of them. Because of discrimination, they are not allowed to be in school.
"People think they cannot do anything even if they took them to school,” she says passionately.
“Other disabled children who are like me cannot go to school because they do not have wheelchairs," she concludes candidly. "I am blessed and grateful to the donors that I have a wheelchair that has allowed me to be in school. My mother, who is a widow, has also been on my side; she encourages me a lot and I know I’ll be a newscaster one day.”
International Day of the Girl is October 11. Mark this day by becoming involved in bringing help, hope, and empowerment to girls and women affected by poverty around the world:
- Sponsor a girl in need. Sponsorship makes a long-term investment in the life of a girl, her family, and her community, providing greater access to life-giving basics like nutritious food, clean water, medical care, and education — the foundation for a future of independence and hope.
- Host an event to honor the International Day of the Girl. Your event can help raise awareness of the importance of investing in the lives of girls around the world.
- Share #BasicMath. Girls + Education = A world of possibilities. Be a part of the photo campaign that shares this message with the world. Print out the Girls + Education placard. Fill in the blank with what educating girls means to you. Snap a photo and share it on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.