Santa Cruz Good Times

Saturday
May 23rd
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

Handicapable

ae EmmanuelEmmanuel Yeboah brings his inspiring life journey to Inner Light Ministries

It is widely considered a curse to be born disabled in Ghana, West Africa. If you are not poisoned or left for dead, you will most likely spend your life begging on the streets. Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah was born in Ghana in 1977 with a severely deformed right leg. Lucky enough to be raised by a supportive mother, Yeboah became a national hero at age 25 when he successfully rode his bicycle, one-legged, across Ghana in 2002.

Yeboah says he was inspired to complete the ride because he wanted to change the perceptions of disabled people.

“[I wanted to] bring positive change, because of how people are treating disabled people in my country and Africa as a whole,” he says in an email to Good Times. “This makes me ride my bicycle.”

Today, Yeboah continues his mission to change the way disabled people are treated in Ghana and throughout the world. Yeboah is the subject of the documentary film, Emmanuel's Gift, narrated by Oprah Winfrey, and travels the world giving lectures to raise awareness about disability in third world nations.

“The film, Emmanuel’s Gift, is a true story, so I came out with courage and love to show everyone that there is a way we can make changes,” Yeboah says.

Thanks to Cory Ybarra, founder of the local nonprofit, Building for Generations, Yeboah will speak in Santa Cruz on March 9 at the Inner Light Ministries in Soquel. Ybarra says the event would not have been possible without the help of local sponsors.

The event will feature a full screening of Emmanuel’s Gift and a dance to African drumming by local musician Malima Kone. Local nonprofits will present information and sell merchandise at booths.

ae Emmanuel2Ghana’s national hero, Emmanuel Yeboah, defeated all odds and rode his bicycle, one-legged, across the country in 2002. Emmanuel’s Gift tells the story.In addition to the Santa Cruz event—tickets are $20—Building for Generations booked a second, free engagement for Yeboah at San Jose State University’s Morris Dailey Auditorium on March 8.

Yeboah’s story is interwoven with that of Building for Generations. The organization began when Ybarra, the mother of a disabled son, took a trip to Tanzania where she was introduced to members of a local school. They asked her for help funding a three-unit classroom for disabled students. When she returned home unsure whether or not to orchestrate a fundraising project for the school, someone gave her a copy of Emmanuel’s Gift.

“I watched the movie and I was so inspired,” she says. “It moved me to just throw myself into the project.”

When the three-classroom block in Tanzania was completed in 2006, Building for Generations filed for nonprofit status.

“At that time someone suggested that perhaps I should try to do an event with Emmanuel, but it felt so far out of my reach,” she says. “And yet I have to say I felt like we were kindred spirits. He played such an important role in my story.”

Building for Generations went on to complete an aid project in Peru following the 2008 earthquake, as well as a local musical project for people with developmental disabilities.

“We were growing and doing bigger events to raise money,” she says. “I just looked at what I had raised in the past for events and calculated that it would be a risk for me to commit to Emmanuel, but wasn’t unreasonable. It was believable at this point.”

Ybarra called Yeboah’s publicist and sent the down payment, then set out to raise the money to bring him to Santa Cruz.

“Emmanuel actually called me,” says Ybarra. “I was kind of in shock when I picked the phone up and he said this is Emmanuel. And I thought I might be tongue tied, but instead I couldn’t stop talking, I was so excited, and told him what an inspiration he had been to me and our organization. His response was: ‘This was exactly what I want to do for people.’”

Yeboah’s connection with U.S. nonprofits and California in particular, is an important part of his story. When Yeboah originally decided to embark upon his historic ride, he wrote to the Challenged Athletes Foundation (CAF) in the United States asking them not for help with his disability, but for a bicycle. They sent a bicycle to Ghana and, following his successful cross-country ride; the foundation flew Yeboah into Loma Linda Hospital in San Diego, Calif. There, the disabled portion of his right leg was amputated and he was fitted for a prosthetic leg.

“It was a shock to me for me to walk on two legs, but I was so happy to walk with two legs because it was the first time,” he says. Just weeks after he received the prosthetic leg, Emmanuel was walking, swimming and running.

The film, Emmanuel’s Gift, concludes with Emmanuel’s marriage, and the birth of his first child, whom he named Loma Linda.

Yeboah says his greatest hope is for the entire world to support disabled people the way they are supported in the United States.  

After he received his prosthetic leg, Emmanuel organized a program to bring wheelchairs to disabled people in Ghana. Emmanuel became the first handicapped individual to be invited to the king’s palace, where he awarded 15 handicapped children with educational scholarships.

With awards Emmanuel received from Nike and CAF, he founded the Emmanuel Educational Foundation and Sports Academy for the Physically Challenged.

The foundation has collaborated with other organizations on many projects, including one to create a bicycle workshop operated by and beneficial to handicapped people in Ghana.

“People should believe [in] disabled people, because disability is a gift,” he says. “My favorite part in this movie, Emmanuel’s Gift, is where I am giving the wheelchairs to the disabled people in Ghana, and how they’re smiling, happy to receive the chairs.”

He has also gone on to speak with politicians in the United States and Europe, as well as the Ghanaian prime minister, about the treatment of disabled people.

Foster Anderson became severely disabled in a motorcycle accident when he was 17 and is now the founder of the local nonprofit, Shared Adventures, which focuses on improving the quality of life for people with disabilities through access to outdoor and adventure sports. He says Yeboah’s story is a great inspiration to people with disabilities.

Ybarra told Foster about Yeboah a couple of years ago and he watched the documentary shortly after.

“I was so touched by watching it—it’s just like, ‘Alright, this guy is rocking off the Richter scales,’” says Anderson. “He didn’t dwell within his disability and he didn’t give up, sort of like me.”

Yeboah says his best piece of advice to people with disabilities is to believe in themselves.

“Keep on pounding until dreams come true because a dreamer fights to the end,” he says. “I want to go further to do more to help others in the world with courage and inspiration.”

Emmanuel Yeboah will speak at 7:30 p.m. Friday, March 9 at Inner Light Ministries, 5630 Soquel Drive, Soquel. Tickets are $20. For more information and tickets, call 465-9090, or visit BuildingforGenerations.com or BrownPaperTickets.com.

Photos:#1 Samson Chan #2 Lisa Lax

Comments (4)Add Comment
...
written by Dawni Pappas, March 03, 2012
Emmanuel is such an inspiration to me! I love what he lives for! I am sooo honored he is coming to Santa Cruz and will be at Inner Light Ministries! Let's support who supports us! Big Love to Emmanuel and his supporters!
...
written by Jen Astone, March 02, 2012
Emmanuel is an amazing man of action and leader that inspires. After years of working in Africa, I find him to be emblematic of the kind of talented and creative individuals we rarely are exposed to in the U.S.
...
written by Building for Generations, March 02, 2012
We love the article - unfortunately, the phone number published is INCORRECT! That is the number for Inner Light and although they are one of our sponsors and the venue of the event, their staff is not part of the Building for Generations production team and will not be able to answer questions about the event. For event information please go to: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/209026

Thank you for all your support!
Cory Ybarra & Lee Oberg - Building for Generations
...
written by Charley L , March 01, 2012
Great man, one of a kind.

Write comment
smaller | bigger

busy
 

Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share

 

Gate Openers

Up-and-coming artists like Ryan Bingham are a great reason to show up early to the Santa Cruz American Music Festival

 

Gemini Sun, Pentecost, Shavuot—Enlightenment and Gladness

As the sun enters Gemini on Sunday, sign of speaking, communication, thinking, inter-relations, writing and understanding languages, the feast days of Pentecost & Shavuot (Catholic and Jewish festivals) occur. During Pentecost’s 50 days after Easter, tongues of fire appear above the heads of the disciples, providing them with the ability to understand all languages and all feelings hidden in the minds and hearts of humanity. It’s recorded that Pentecost began with a loud noise, which happened in an upper room (signifying the mind). The Christ (World Teacher) told his disciples (after his ascension) when encountering a man at a well carrying a water pot (signs for Age of Aquarius) to follow him to an upper room. There, the Holy Spirit (Ray 3 of Divine Intelligence) would overshadow them, expand their minds, give them courage and enable them to teach throughout the world, speaking all languages and thus able to minister to the true needs of a “seeking” humanity. Pentecost (50 days, pentagram, Ray 5, Venus, concrete and scientific knowledge, the Ray of Aquarius) sounds dramatic, impressive and scary: The loud noise, a thunderous rush of wind and then “tongues of fire” above the heads of each disciple (men and women). Fire has purpose. It purifies, disintegrates, purges, transforms and liberates (frees) us from the past. This was the Holy Spirit (Ray 3, love and wisdom) being received by the disciples, so they would teach in the world and inform humanity of the Messiah (Christ), who initiated the new age (Pisces) and gave humanity the new law (adding to the 10 Commandments of the Aries Age) to Love (Ray 2) one another. Note: Gemini is also Ray 2. Shavuot is the Jewish Festival of Gladness, the First Fruits Festival celebrating the giving of the 10 Commandments to Moses as the Aries Age was initiated. Thus, we have two developmental stages here, Jewish festival of the Old Testament. Pentecost of the New Testament. We have gladness, integrating both.

 

The New Tech Nexus

Community leaders in science and technology unite to form web-based networking program

 

Off Her Meds

Kristin Wiig runs wild—and transcends her sketch comedy roots—as a truly strange character ‘Welcome to Me’
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments

 

Flats Bistro

Pizza with an artisan twist comes to Aptos Beach

 

What’s your take on Santa Cruz locals?

Santa Cruz locals are really friendly once you know them. I think a lot of them have a hard time leaving, and I would too. Ryan Carle, Santa Cruz, Biologist

 

Soquel Vineyards

If Soquel Vineyards partners Peter and Paul Bargetto and Jon Morgan were walking down the street wearing their winning wine competition medals, you’d hear them coming from a mile away. This year was particularly rewarding for the Bargettos and Morgan—they won two Double Gold Medals and five Gold Medals at January’s San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition.

 

Enlightened Flavors

Squash & Blossom’s artisanal alternative-flour delights, beet kvass from Cafe Ivéta, and the Santa Cruz Baroque Festival