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Freedom in community: Raising social worth

Messiah College student and Burkinabe people planting a tree

N’Dansema (left), Yempaabou (center), and Dan Dourte ’04 plant a mango tree in front of the handicap center, an annual tradition symbolizing that the work of faith and hope they began will continue to grow.

In Mahadaga, an agricultural community where families rely on children to help with their livelihood, Messiah students learn about the deep cultural stigmas placed on the dependent disabled. Offering mobility gives people like Yempaabou respect from their community, as well as a sense of self-worth. In more than one way, the tricycle project “gives them legs,” says business administration major Lindsay Reilly ’05, DE student director for 2005–2006.

This coming year, DE hopes to broaden the program’s scope by developing smaller power sources for electric tricycles that can be used by the handicapped in remote areas and by designing mechanisms to help those without family support get into their tricycles. The school is also applying for grants to develop assistive technologies with World Vision for the disabled in Mali.

But wherever their progress takes them, both DE and Yempaabou will be keeping ties with old friends.

Dourte returned to visit Yempaabou and checked the tricycle in January 2005, after Yempaabou had been using it independently for several months. As he made repairs to the throttle, Dourte noticed an old photograph stowed away under the seat.

The photo pictured Yempaabou in his wheelchair with Mentyeba, the friend who had pushed him almost everywhere he needed to go—until Yempaabou took off down the road on new “legs.”

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