THYOLO, Charles George, 27, is a unique figure and the centre of attraction at Luchenza Town in Thyolo district.
The young man from Kasiya Village, Traditional Authority (T/A) Chigaru in Blantyre plies his trade as a bicycle taxi operator commonly known as Kabaza at Luchenza.
What makes him unique is that he carries out his business of taking people from one place to another on a bicycle using one leg!
I carry people to distances as far as 20 kilometres, says George. Some people who do not know me sometimes doubt whether I can ferry them to their destinations. But they are always proved wrong.
The young man says he manages to transport people to places like Msika wa Njala and Mbiza which are very far away from Luchenza Township.
The journey to George’s current state started way back when he was a young boy. He was born as any other normal person with both legs.
But as he was growing, the right leg started experiencing serious problems to the extent that doctors recommended amputation.
My parents refused to accept the doctor’s advice and the condition worsened. Years later, my aunt took me to the hospital where it was finally amputated, George says.
He adds that he started feeling better after the amputation but had problems walking.
Although he accepted his condition, George had problems in maintaining and finding new friendship as well as pursuing education.
I could not manage to go to various places and play with friends. It was a tough moment in my life that I even dropped out of school after completing standard 7, says George, a former pupil at Chinamvuwu Primary School in his home village in Blantyre.
Getting him an artificial leg was not an easy task for his poor parents. But he was lucky to get one for free through the Malawi government.
Pondering on what to do with his life, George decided to move away and live with his uncle in Luchenza.
It was here in Luchenza that he saw the potential to make himself productive.
I looked at myself and realized that I could do something important to my life, he says.
Georges explains that his stay in Luchenza helped him to meet an inspiration that transformed his life for the better.
The motivation came from a shoemaker popularly known as Njomba, a physically challenged man who has been earning a living through shoe making business.
He says Njomba’s story motivated him to approach a certain gentleman to hire him as his bicycle taxi operator.
At first, the man never believed me. He wondered how a one-legged person could operate a bicycle. I pleaded with him to give me a chance, he gave me the benefit of doubt and hired me, says George.
The bicycle owner told him to at least bring K500 a day. At first, it was a big challenge because most customers shunned him because of his condition.
But as time passed, business picked up as people started getting used to him and started asking him to ferry them to different places.
He has not looked back since then and now he is comfortable in this business with his own bicycle.
I do not have any pressure to meet set targets since I now operate my own bicycle, says George adding that he makes about K3,000 on a good day.
Charles George’s resilience has attracted a lot of admiration from many people including that of Thyolo District Disability Forum deputy chairperson Brian Naiwala.
The young man has gone against all odds in proving that one’s disability does not translate into an inability.
He has proven that physically challenged people have the potential to compete with able-bodied people in all social and economic activities, Naiwala says.
He calls on all physically challenged people to utilize their potential in various aspects of life than looking at street begging as the only alternative to their well-being.
Naiwala also appeals to communities to support physically challenged people who show keen interest to improve their lives on their own.
Somebody assisted George to reach where he is. He was entrusted with a bicycle taxi despite having one leg.
My plea is that let us support physically challenged people who are eager to make ends meet on their own so that they too contribute to the country’s social economic growth, he says.
For Charles George, flying above the limitations of the sky is his goal. He says operating a bicycle taxi is not his final wish.
My dream is to have a small business which does not require one to use a lot of energy like cycling. I want to own a shop that will sell a variety of merchandise, he says.
George is hopeful that with the blessing of his magical leg on the bicycle, he should be able to generate enough capital investment for his goal of establishing a retail shop.
Source: Malawi News Agency MANA